Chapter 1 Preparations for Persecution in the Netherlands Chapter 2 Opposition to Philip and Cardinal Granvelle in the Netherlands Chapter 3 The Inquisition & Conflicts between Granvelle and the Nobles Chapter 4 The Departure and Retirement of Cardinal Granvelle
Margaret of Parma, newly appointed Regent of the Netherlands, was the natural daughter of Charles V, and his eldest born child. Her mother, of a respectable family called Van der Genst, in Oudenarde, had been adopted and brought up by the distinguished house of Hoogstraaten. Peculiar circumstances, not necessary to relate at length, had palliated the fault to which Margaret owed her imperial origin, and gave the child almost a legitimate claim upon its father’s protection. The claim was honorably acknowledged. Margaret was in her infancy placed by the Emperor in the charge of his paternal aunt, Margaret of Savoy, then regent of the provinces. Upon the death of that princess, the child was entrusted to the care of the Emperor’s sister, Mary, Queen Dowager of Hungary, who had succeeded to the government, and who occupied it until the abdication. The huntress-queen communicated her tastes to her youthful niece, and Margaret soon outrivaled her instructress. The ardor with which she pursued the stag, and the courageous horsemanship which she always displayed, proved her, too, no degenerate descendant of Mary of Burgundy.
Her education for the distinguished position in which she had somewhat surreptitiously been placed was at least not neglected in this particular. When, soon after the memorable sack of Rome, the pope and the Emperor had been reconciled, and it had been decided that the Medici family should be elevated upon the ruins of Florentine liberty, Margaret’s hand was conferred in marriage upon the pontiff’s nephew Alexander. The wretched profligate who was thus selected to mate with the Emperor’s eldest born child and to appropriate the fair demesnes of the Tuscan republic was nominally the offspring of Lorenzo de Medici by a Moorish slave, although generally reputed a bastard of the pope himself.
The nuptials were celebrated with great pomp at Naples, where the Emperor rode at the tournament in the guise of a Moorish warrior. At Florence splendid festivities had also been held, which were troubled with omens believed to be highly unfavorable. It hardly needed, however, preternatural appearances in heaven or on earth to proclaim the marriage ill-starred which united a child of twelve years with a worn-out debauchee of twenty-seven. Fortunately for Margaret, the funereal portents proved true. Her husband, within the first year of their wedded life, fell a victim to his own profligacy, and was assassinated by his kinsman, Lorenzino de Medici. Cosmo, his successor in the tyranny of Florence, was desirous of succeeding to the hand of Margaret, but the politic Emperor, thinking that he had already done enough to conciliate that house, was inclined to bind to his interests the family which now occupied the papal throne. Margaret was accordingly a few years afterwards united to Ottavio Farnese, nephew of Paul III. It was still her fate to be unequally matched. Having while still a child been wedded to a man of more than twice her years, she was now, at the age of twenty, united to an immature youth of thirteen. She conceived so strong an aversion to her new husband, that it became impossible for them to live together in peace. Ottavio accordingly went to the wars, and in 1541 accompanied the Emperor in his memorable expedition to Barbary.
Rumors of disaster by battle and tempest reaching Europe before the results of the expedition were accurately known, reports that the Emperor had been lost in a storm, and that the young Ottavio had perished with him, awakened remorse in the bosom of Margaret. It seemed to her that he had been driven forth by domestic inclemency to fall a victim to the elements. When, however, the truth became known, and it was ascertained that her husband, although still living, was lying dangerously ill in the charge of the Emperor, the repugnance which had been founded upon his extreme youth changed to passionate fondness. His absence, and his faithful military attendance upon her father, caused a revulsion in her feelings, and awakened her admiration. When Ottavio, now created Duke of Parma and Piacenza, returned to Rome, he was received by his wife with open arms. Their union was soon blessed with twins, and but for a certain imperiousness of disposition which Margaret had inherited from her father, and which she was too apt to exercise even upon her husband, the marriage would have been sufficiently fortunate.
Various considerations pointed her out to Philip as a suitable person for the office of regent, although there seemed some mystery about the appointment which demanded explanation. It was thought that her birth would make her acceptable to the people; but perhaps, the secret reason with Philip was, that she alone of all other candidates would be amenable to the control of the churchman in whose hand he intended placing the real administration of the provinces. Moreover, her husband was very desirous that the citadel of Piacenza, still garrisoned by Spanish troops, should be surrendered to him. Philip was disposed to conciliate the duke, but unwilling to give up the fortress. He felt that Ottavio would be flattered by the nomination of his wife to so important an office, and be not too much dissatisfied at finding himself relieved for a time from her imperious fondness. Her residence in the Netherlands would guarantee domestic tranquility to her husband, and peace in Italy to the king. Margaret would be a hostage for the fidelity of the Duke, who had, moreover, given his eldest son to Philip to be educated in his service.
She was about thirty-seven years of age when she arrived in the Netherlands, with the reputation of possessing high talents, and a proud and energetic character. She was an enthusiastic Catholic, and had sat at the feet of Loyola, who had been her confessor and spiritual guide. She felt a greater horror for heretics than for any other species of malefactors, and looked up to her father’s bloody edicts as if they had been special revelations from on high. She was most strenuous in her observance of Roman rites, and was accustomed to wash the feet of twelve virgins every holy week, and to endow them in marriage afterwards. Her acquirements, save that of the art of horsemanship, were not remarkable.
Carefully educated in the Machiavellian and Medicean school of politics, she was versed in that “dissimulation,” to which liberal Anglo-Saxons give a shorter name, but which formed the main substance of statesmanship at the court of Charles and Philip. In other respects her accomplishments were but meager, and she had little acquaintance with any language but Italian. Her personal appearance, which was masculine, but not without a certain grand and imperial fascination, harmonized with the opinion generally entertained of her character. The famous moustache upon her upper lip was supposed to indicate authority and virility of purpose, an impression which was confirmed by the circumstance that she was liable to severe attacks of gout, a disorder usually considered more appropriate to the sterner sex.
Such were the previous career and public reputation of the Duchess Margaret. It remains to be unfolded whether her character and endowments, as exemplified in her new position, were to justify the choice of Philip.
The first was, likewise, chief of the finance department. Most of the Catholic writers described him as a noble of loyal and highly honorable character. Those of the Protestant party, on the contrary, uniformly denounced him as greedy, avaricious, and extremely sanguinary. That he was a brave and devoted soldier, a bitter papist, and an inflexible adherent to the royal cause, has never been disputed. The baron himself, with his four courageous and accomplished sons, were ever in the front ranks to defend the crown against the nation. It must be confessed, however, that fanatical loyalty loses most of the romance with which genius and poetry have so often hallowed the sentiment, when the “legitimate” prince for whom the sword is drawn is not only an alien in tongue and blood, but filled with undisguised hatred for the land he claims to rule.
Viglius van Aytta van Zuichem was a learned Frisian, born, according to some writers, of “boors’ degree, but having no inclination for boorish work.” According to other authorities, which the president himself favored, he was of noble origin; but, whatever his race, it is certain that whether gentle or simple, it derived its first and only historical illustration from his remarkable talents and acquirements. These in early youth were so great as to acquire the commendation of Erasmus. He had studied in Louvain, Paris, and Padua, had refused the tutorship of Philip when that prince was still a child, and had afterwards filled a professorship at Ingolstadt. After rejecting several offers of promotion from the Emperor, he had at last accepted in 1542 a seat in the council of Mechlin, of which body he had become president in 1545.
He had been one of the peace commissioners to France in 1558, and was now president of the privy council, a member of the state council, and of the inner and secret committee of that board, called the Consulta. Much odium was attached to his name for his share in the composition of the famous edict of 1550. The rough draught was usually attributed to his pen, but he complained bitterly, in letters written at this time, of injustice done him in this respect, and maintained that he had endeavored, without success, to induce the Emperor to mitigate the severity of the edict. One does not feel very strongly inclined to accept his excuses, however, when his general opinions on the subject of religion are remembered. He was most bigoted in precept and practice. Religious liberty he regarded as the most detestable and baleful of doctrines; heresy he denounced as the most unpardonable of crimes.
From no man’s mouth flowed more bitter or more elegant commonplaces than from that of the learned president against those blackest of malefactors, the men who claimed within their own walls the right to worship God according to their own consciences. For a common person, not learned in law or divinity, to enter into his closet, to shut the door, and to pray to Him who seeth in secret, was, in his opinion, to open wide the gate of destruction for all the land, and to bring in the Father of Evil at once to fly away with the whole population, body and soul. “If every man,” said he to Hopper, “is to believe what he likes in his own house, we shall have hearth gods and tutelar divinities again, the country will swarm with a thousand errors and sects, and very few there will be, I fear, who will allow themselves to be enclosed in the sheepfold of Christ.” “I have ever considered this opinion,” continued the president, “the most pernicious of all. They who hold it have a contempt for all religion, and are neither more nor less than atheists. This vague, fireside liberty should be by every possible means extirpated; therefore did Christ institute shepherds to drive his wandering sheep back into the fold of the true Church; thus only can we guard the lambs against the ravening wolves, and prevent their being carried away from the flock of Christ to the flock of Belial. Liberty of religion, or of conscience, as they call it, ought never to be tolerated.”
This was the cant with which Viglius was ever ready to feed not only his faithful Hopper, but all the world beside. The president was naturally anxious that the fold of Christ should be entrusted to none but regular shepherds, for he looked forward to taking one of the most lucrative crooks into his own hand, when he should retire from his secular career.
It is now necessary to say a few introductory words concerning the man who, from this time forth, begins to rise upon the history of his country with daily increasing grandeur and influence. William of Nassau, Prince of Orange, although still young in years, is already the central personage about whom the events and the characters of the epoch most naturally group themselves, destined as he is to become more and more with each succeeding year the vivifying source of light, strength, and national life to a whole people.
The Nassau family first emerges into distinct existence in the middle of the eleventh century. It divides itself almost as soon as known into two great branches. The elder remained in Germany, ascended the imperial throne in the thirteenth century in the person of Adolph of Nassau, and gave to the country many electors, bishops, and generals. The younger and more illustrious branch retained the modest property and petty sovereignty of Nassau Dillenbourg, but at the same time transplanted itself to the Netherlands, where it attained at an early period to great power and large possessions. The ancestors of William, as Dukes of Gueldres, had begun to exercise sovereignty in the provinces four centuries before the advent of the house of Burgundy. That overshadowing family afterwards numbered the Netherland Nassau’s among its most stanch and powerful adherents. Engelbert II was distinguished in the turbulent councils and in the battlefields of Charles the Bold, and was afterwards the unwavering supporter of Maximilian, in court and camp. Dying childless, he was succeeded by his brother John, whose two sons, Henry and William, of Nassau, divided the great inheritance after their father’s death.
William succeeded to the German estates, became a convert to Protestantism, and introduced the Reformation into his dominions. Henry, the eldest son, received the family possessions and titles in Luxembourg, Brabant, Flanders, and Holland, and distinguished himself as much as his uncle Engelbert, in the service of the Burgundo-Austrian house. The confidential friend of Charles V, whose governor he had been in that Emperor’s boyhood, he was ever his most efficient and reliable adherent. It was he whose influence placed the imperial crown upon the head of Charles. In 1515 he espoused Claudia de Chalons, sister of Prince Philibert of Orange, “in order,” as he wrote to his father, “to be obedient to his imperial Majesty, to please the King of France, and more particularly for the sake of his own honor and profit.”
His son Réné de Nassau-Chalons succeeded Philibert. The little principality of Orange, so pleasantly situated between Provence and Dauphiny, but in such dangerous proximity to the seat of the “Babylonian captivity” of the popes at Avignon, thus passed to the family of Nassau. The title was of high antiquity. Already in the reign of Charlemagne, Guillaume an Court-Nez, or “William with the Short Nose,” had defended the little town of Orange against the assaults of the Saracens. The interest and authority acquired in the demesnes thus preserved by his valor became extensive, and in process of time hereditary in his race. The principality became an absolute and free sovereignty, and had already descended, in defiance of the Salic law, through the three distinct families of Orange, Baux, and Chalons.
In 1544, Prince Réné died at the Emperor’s feet in the trenches of Saint Dizier. Having no legitimate children, he left all his titles and estates to his cousin-german, William of Nassau, son of his father’s brother William, who thus at the age of eleven years became William IX of Orange. For this child, whom the future was to summon to such high destinies and such heroic sacrifices, the past and present seemed to have gathered riches and power together from many sources. He was the descendant of the Otho’s, the Engelbert’s, and the Henry’s, of the Netherlands, the representative of the Philibert’s, and the Réné’s of France; the chief of a house, humbler in resources and position in Germany, but still of high rank, and which had already done good service to humanity by being among the first to embrace the great principles of the Reformation.
His father, younger brother of the Emperor’s friend Henry, was called William the Rich. He was, however, only rich in children. Of these he had five sons and seven daughters by his wife Juliana of Stolberg. She was a person of most exemplary character and unaffected piety. She instilled into the minds of all her children the elements of that devotional sentiment which was her own striking characteristic, and it was destined that the seed sown early should increase to an abundant harvest. Nothing can be more tender or more touching than the letters which still exist from her hand, written to her illustrious sons in hours of anxiety or anguish, and to the last, recommending to them with as much earnest simplicity as if they were still little children at her knee, to rely always in the midst of the trials and dangers which were to beset their paths through life, upon the great hand of God. Among the mothers of great men, Juliana of Stolberg deserves a foremost place, and it is no slight eulogy that she was worthy to have been the mother of William of Orange and of Lewis, Adolphus, Henry, and John of Nassau.
At the age of eleven years, William having thus unexpectedly succeeded to such great possessions, was sent from his father’s roof to be educated in Brussels. No destiny seemed to lie before the young prince but an education at the Emperor’s court, to be followed by military adventures, embassies, viceroyalties, and a life of luxury and magnificence. At a very early age he came, accordingly, as a page into the Emperor’s family. Charles recognized, with his customary quickness, the remarkable character of the boy. At fifteen, William was the intimate, almost confidential friend of the Emperor, who prided himself, above all other gifts, on his power of reading and of using men. The youth was so constant an attendant upon his imperial chief that even when interviews with the highest personages, and upon the gravest affairs, were taking place, Charles would never suffer him to be considered superfluous or intrusive. There seemed to be no secrets which the Emperor held too high for the comprehension or discretion of his page. His perceptive and reflective faculties, naturally of remarkable keenness and depth, thus acquired a precocious and extraordinary development. He was brought up behind the curtain of that great stage where the world’s dramas were daily enacted. The machinery and the masks which produced the grand delusions of history had no deceptions for him.
Carefully to observe men’s actions, and silently to ponder upon their motives, was the favorite occupation of the prince during his apprenticeship at court. As he advanced to man’s estate, he was selected by the Emperor for the highest duties. Charles, whose only merit, so far as the provinces were concerned, was in having been born in Ghent, and that by an ignoble accident, was glad to employ this representative of so many great Netherland houses, in the defense of the land. Before the prince was twenty-one he was appointed general-in-chief of the army on the French frontier, in the absence of the Duke of Savoy. The post was coveted by many most distinguished soldiers—the Counts of Buren, Bossu, Lalaing, Aremberg, Meghem, and particularly by Count Egmont; yet Charles showed his extraordinary confidence in the Prince of Orange, by selecting him for the station, although he had hardly reached maturity, and was moreover absent in France. The young prince acquitted himself of his high command in a manner which justified his appointment.
It was the Prince’s shoulder upon which the Emperor leaned at the abdication, the Prince’s hand which bore the imperial insignia of the discrowned monarch to Ferdinand at Augsburg. With these duties his relations with Charles were ended, and those with Philip begun. He was with the army during the hostilities which were soon after resumed in Picardy; he was the secret negotiator of the preliminary arrangement with France, soon afterwards confirmed by the triumphant treaty of April 1559. He had conducted these initiatory conferences with the Constable Montmorency and Marshal de Saint André with great sagacity, although hardly a man in years, and by so doing he had laid Philip under deep obligations. The king was so inexpressibly anxious for peace that he would have been capable of conducting a treaty upon almost any terms. He assured the prince that “the greatest service he could render him in this world was to make peace, and that he desired to have it at any price whatever, so eager was he to return to Spain.” To the envoy Suriano, Philip had held the same language. “Oh, Ambassador,” said he, “I wish peace on any terms, and if the King of France had not sued for it, I would have begged for it myself.”
With such impatience on the part of the sovereign, it certainly manifested diplomatic abilities of a high character in the prince, that the treaty negotiated by him amounted to a capitulation by France. He was one of the hostages selected by Henry for the due execution of the treaty, and while in France made that remarkable discovery which was to color his life. While hunting with the king in the forest of Vincennes, the Prince and Henry found themselves alone together, and separated from the rest of the company. The French monarch’s mind was full of the great scheme which had just secretly been formed by Philip and himself, to extirpate Protestantism by a general extirpation of Protestants. Philip had been most anxious to conclude the public treaty with France, that he might be the sooner able to negotiate that secret convention, by which he and his Most Christian Majesty were solemnly to bind themselves to massacre all the converts to the new religion, in France and the Netherlands. This conspiracy of the two kings against their subjects was the matter nearest the hearts of both. The Duke of Alva, a fellow hostage with William of Orange, was the plenipotentiary to conduct this more important arrangement. The French monarch, somewhat imprudently imagining that the prince was also a party to the plot, opened the whole subject to him without reserve. He complained of the constantly increasing numbers of sectaries in his kingdom, and protested that his conscience would never be easy, nor his state secure until his realm should be delivered of “that accursed vermin.” A civil revolution, under pretext of a religious reformation, was his constant apprehension, particularly since so many notable personages in the realm, and even princes of the blood, were already tainted with heresy. Nevertheless, with the favor of heaven, and the assistance of his son and brother Philip, he hoped soon to be master of the rebels. The king then proceeded, with cynical minuteness, to lay before his discreet companion the particulars of the royal plot, and the manner in which all heretics, whether high or humble, were to be discovered and massacred at the most convenient season.
For the furtherance of the scheme in the Netherlands, it was understood that the Spanish regiments would be exceedingly efficient. The prince, although horror-struck and indignant at the royal revelations, held his peace, and kept his countenance. The king was not aware that, in opening this delicate negotiation to Alva’s colleague and Philip’s plenipotentiary, he had given a warning of inestimable value to the man who had been born to resist the machinations of Philip and of Alva. William of Orange earned the name of “the Silent,” from the manner in which he received these communications of Henry without revealing to the monarch, by word or look, the enormous blunder which he had committed. His purpose was fixed from that hour. A Few days afterwards he obtained permission to visit the Netherlands, where he took measures to excite, with all his influence, the strongest and most general opposition to the continued presence of the Spanish troops, of which forces, much against his will, he had been, in conjunction with Egmont, appointed chief. He already felt, in his own language, that “an inquisition for the Netherlands had been resolved upon more cruel than that of Spain; since it would need but to look askance at an image to be cast into the flames.” Although having as yet no spark of religious sympathy for the reformers, he could not, he said, “but feel compassion for so many virtuous men and women thus devoted to massacre,” and he determined to save them if he could.
At the departure of Philip he had received instructions, both patent and secret, for his guidance as stadholder of Holland, Friesland, and Utrecht. He was ordered “most expressly to correct and extirpate the sects reprobated by our Holy Mother Church; to execute the edicts of his Imperial Majesty, renewed by the King, with absolute rigor.” He was to see that the judges carried out the edicts, “without infraction, alteration, or moderation, since they were there to enforce, not to make or to discuss the law.” In his secret instructions he was informed that the execution of the edicts was to be with all rigor, and without any respect of persons. He was also reminded that, whereas some persons had imagined the severity of the law “to be only intended against Anabaptists, on the contrary, the edicts were to be enforced on Lutherans and all other sectaries without distinction.” Moreover, in one of his last interviews with Philip, the king had given him the names of several “excellent persons suspected of the new religion,” and had commanded him to have them put to death. This, however, he not only omitted to do, but on the contrary gave them warning, so that they might effect their escape, “thinking it more necessary to obey God than man.”
William of Orange, at the departure of the king for Spain, was in his twenty-seventh year. He was a widower, his first wife, Anne of Egmont, having died in 1558, after seven years of wedlock. This lady, to whom he had been united when they were both eighteen years of age, was the daughter of the celebrated general, Count de Buren, and the greatest heiress in the Netherlands. William had thus been faithful to the family traditions, and had increased his possessions by a wealthy alliance. He had two children, Philip and Mary. The marriage had been more amicable than princely marriages arranged for convenience often prove. The letters of the prince to his wife indicate tenderness and contentment. At the same time he was accused, at a later period, of “having murdered her with a dagger.” The ridiculous tale was not even credited by those who reported it, but it is worth mentioning, as a proof that no calumny was too senseless to be invented concerning the man whose character was from that hour forth to be the mark of slander, and whose whole life was to be its signal, although often unavailing, refutation.
Yet we are not to regard William of Orange, thus on the threshold of his great career, by the light diffused from a somewhat later period. In no historical character more remarkably than in his, is the law of constant development and progress illustrated. At twenty-six he is not the “pater patriæ,” the great man struggling upward and onward against a host of enemies and obstacles almost beyond human strength, and along the dark and dangerous path leading through conflict, privation, and ceaseless labor to no repose but death. On the contrary, his foot was hardly on the first step of that difficult ascent which was to rise before him all his lifetime. He was still among the primrose paths. He was rich, powerful, of sovereign rank. He had only the germs within him of what was thereafter to expand into moral and intellectual greatness. He had small sympathy for the religious reformation, of which he was to be one of the most distinguished champions. He was a Catholic, nominally, and in outward observance. With doctrines he troubled himself but little. He had given orders to enforce conformity to the ancient Church, not with bloodshed, yet with comparative strictness, in his principality of Orange. Beyond the compliance with rites and forms, thought indispensable in those days to a personage of such high degree, he did not occupy himself with theology. He was a Catholic, as Egmont and Horn, Berlaymont and Mansfeld, Montigny and even Brederode, were Catholic. It was only tanners, dyers, and apostate priests who were Protestants at that day in the Netherlands. His determination to protect a multitude of his harmless inferiors from horrible deaths did not proceed from sympathy with their religious sentiments, but merely from a generous and manly detestation of murder. He carefully averted his mind from sacred matters.
If indeed the seed implanted by his pious parents were really the germ of his future conversion to Protestantism, it must be confessed that it lay dormant a long time. But his mind was in other pursuits. He was disposed for an easy, joyous, luxurious, princely life. Banquets, masquerades, tournaments, the chase, interspersed with the routine of official duties, civil and military, seemed likely to fill out his life. His hospitality, like his fortune, was almost regal. While the king and the foreign envoys were still in the Netherlands, his house, the splendid Nassau palace of Brussels, was ever open. He entertained for the monarch, who was, or who imagined himself to be, too poor to discharge his own duties in this respect, but he entertained at his own expense. This splendid household was still continued. Twenty-four noblemen and eighteen pages of gentle birth officiated regularly in his family. His establishment was on so extensive a scale that upon one day twenty-eight master cooks were dismissed, for the purpose of diminishing the family expenses, and there was hardly a princely house in Germany which did not send cooks to learn their business in so magnificent a kitchen. The reputation of his table remained undiminished for years. We find at a later period, that Philip, in the course of one of the nominal reconciliations which took place several times between the monarch and William of Orange, wrote that, his head cook being dead, he begged the Prince to “make him a present of his chief cook, Master Herman, who was understood to be very skilful.”
In this hospitable mansion, the feasting continued night and day. From early morning till noon, the breakfast tables were spread with wines and luxurious viands in constant succession, to all comers and at every moment. The dinner and supper were daily banquets for a multitude of guests. The highest nobles were not those alone who were entertained. Men of lower degree were welcomed with a charming hospitality which made them feel themselves at their ease. Contemporaries of all parties unite in eulogizing the winning address and gentle manners of the prince. “Never,” says a most bitter Catholic historian, “did an arrogant or indiscreet word fall from his lips. He, upon no occasion, manifested anger to his servants, however much they might be in fault, but contented himself with admonishing them graciously, without menace or insult. He had a gentle and agreeable tongue, with which he could turn all the gentlemen at court any way he liked. He was beloved and honored by the whole community.” His manner was graceful, familiar, caressing, and yet dignified. He had the good breeding which comes from the heart, refined into an inexpressible charm from his constant intercourse, almost from his cradle, with mankind of all ranks.
It may be supposed that this train of living was attended with expense. Moreover, he had various other establishments in town and country, besides his almost royal residence in Brussels. He was ardently fond of the chase, particularly of the knightly sport of falconry. In the country he “consoled himself by taking every day a heron in the clouds.” His falconers alone cost him annually 1,500 florins, after he had reduced their expenses to the lowest possible point. He was much in debt, even at this early period and with his princely fortune. “We come of a race,” he wrote carelessly to his brother Louis, “who are somewhat bad managers in our young days, but when we grow older, we do better, like our late father: sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper et in secula seculorum.” “My greatest difficulty,” he adds, “as usual, is on account of the falconers.”
His debts already amounted, according to Granvelle’s statement, to 800,000 or 900,000 florins. He had embarrassed himself, not only through his splendid extravagance, by which all the world about him were made to partake of his wealth, but by accepting the high offices to which he had been appointed. When general-in-chief on the frontier, his salary was three hundred florins monthly, “not enough,” as he said, “to pay the servants in his tent,” his necessary expenses being 2,500 florins, as appears by a letter to his wife. His embassy to carry the crown to Ferdinand, and his subsequent residence as a hostage for the treaty in Paris, were also very onerous, and he received no salary; according to the economical system in this respect pursued by Charles and Philip. In these two embassies or missions alone, together with the entertainments offered by him to the court and to foreigners, after the peace at Brussels, the prince spent, according to his own estimate, 1,500,000 florins.
He was, however, although deeply, not desperately involved, and had already taken active measures to regulate and reduce his establishment. His revenues were vast, both in his own right and in that of his deceased wife. He had large claims upon the royal treasury for service and expenditure. He had besides ample sums to receive from the ransoms of the prisoners of St. Quentin and Gravelines, having served in both campaigns. The amount to be received by individuals from this source may be estimated from the fact that Count Horn, by no means one of the most favored in the victorious armies, had received from Leonor d’Orleans, Duc de Longueville, a ransom of 80,000 crowns. The sum due, if payment were enforced, from the prisoners assigned to Egmont, Orange, and others, must have been very large. Granvelle estimated the whole amount at two millions, adding characteristically, “that this kind of speculation was a practice” which our good old fathers, lovers of virtue, would not have found laudable. In this the churchman was right, but he might have added that the “lovers of virtue” would have found it as little “laudable” for ecclesiastics to dispose of the sacred offices in their gift, for carpets, tapestry, and annual payments of certain percentages upon the cure of souls. If the profits respectively gained by military and clerical speculators in that day should be compared, the disadvantage would hardly be found to lie with those of the long robe.
Such, then, at the beginning of 1560, was William of Orange—a generous, stately, magnificent, powerful grandee. As a military commander, he had acquitted himself very creditably of highly important functions at an early age. Nevertheless it was the opinion of many persons that he was of a timid temperament. He was even accused of having manifested an unseemly manic at Philippeville, and of having only been restrained by the expostulations of his officers, from abandoning both that fortress and Charlemont to Admiral Coligny, who had made his appearance in the neighborhood, merely at the head of a reconnoitering party. If the story were true, it would be chiefly important as indicating that the Prince of Orange was one of the many historical characters, originally of an excitable and even timorous physical organization, whom moral courage and a strong will have afterwards converted into dauntless heroes. Certain it is that he was destined to confront open danger in every form, that his path was to lead through perpetual ambush, yet that his cheerful confidence and tranquil courage were to become not only unquestionable but proverbial. It may be safely asserted, however, that the story was an invention to be classed with those fictions which made him the murderer of his first wife, a common conspirator against Philip’s crown and person, and a crafty malefactor in general, without a single virtue. It must be remembered that even the terrible Alva, who lived in harness almost from the cradle to the grave, was, so late as at this period, censured for timidity, and had been accused in youth of flat cowardice. He despised the insinuation, which for him had no meaning. There is no doubt too that caution was a predominant characteristic of the prince. It was one of the chief sources of his greatness. At that period, perhaps at any period, he would have been incapable of such brilliant and dashing exploits as had made the name of Egmont so famous. It had even become a proverb, “the counsel of Orange, the execution of Egmont,” yet we shall have occasion to see how far this physical promptness which had been so felicitous upon the battlefield was likely to avail the hero of St. Quentin in the great political combat which was approaching.
As to the talents of the prince, there was no difference of opinion. His enemies never contested the subtlety and breadth of his intellect, his adroitness and capacity in conducting state affairs, his knowledge of human nature, and the profoundness of his views. In many respects it must be confessed that his surname of The Silent, like many similar appellations, was a misnomer. William of Orange was neither “silent” nor “taciturn,” yet these are the epithets which will be forever associated with the name of a man who, in private, was the most affable, cheerful, and delightful of companions, and who on a thousand great public occasions was to prove himself, both by pen and by speech, the most eloquent man of his age. His mental accomplishments were considerable. He had studied history with attention, and he spoke and wrote with facility Latin, French, German, Flemish, and Spanish.
The man, however, in whose hands the administration of the Netherlands was in reality placed, was Anthony Perrenot, then Bishop of Arras, soon to be known by the more celebrated title of Cardinal Granvelle. He was the chief of the Consulta, or secret council of three, by whose deliberations the Duchess Regent was to be governed. His father, Nicholas Perrenot, of an obscure family in Burgundy, had been long the favorite minister and man of business to the Emperor Charles. Anthony, the eldest of thirteen children, was born in 1517. He was early distinguished for his talents. He studied at Dôle, Padua, Paris, and Louvain. At the age of twenty he spoke seven languages with perfect facility, while his acquaintance with civil and ecclesiastical laws was considered prodigious. At the age of twenty-three he became a canon of Liege Cathedral. The necessary eight quarters of gentility produced upon that occasion have accordingly been displayed by his panegyrists in triumphant refutation of that theory which gave him a blacksmith for his grandfather. At the same period, although he had not reached the requisite age, the rich bishopric of Arras had already been prepared for him by his father’s care. Three years afterwards, in 1543, he distinguished himself by a most learned and brilliant harangue before the Council of Trent, by which display he so much charmed the Emperor, that he created him councilor of state. A few years afterwards he rendered the unscrupulous Charles still more valuable proofs of devotion and dexterity by the part he played in the memorable imprisonment of the Landgrave of Hesse and the Saxon Dukes. He was thereafter constantly employed in embassies and other offices of trust and profit.
There was no doubt as to his profound and varied learning, nor as to his natural quickness and dexterity. He was ready witted, smooth and fluent of tongue, fertile in expedients, courageous, resolute. He thoroughly understood the art of managing men, particularly his superiors. He knew how to govern under the appearance of obeying. He possessed exquisite tact in appreciating the characters of those far above him in rank and beneath him in intellect. He could accommodate himself with great readiness to the idiosyncrasies of sovereigns. He was a chameleon to the hand which fed him. In his intercourse with the king, he colored himself, as it were, with the king’s character. He was not himself, but Philip; not the sullen, hesitating, confused Philip, however, but Philip endowed with eloquence, readiness, facility. The king ever found himself anticipated with the most delicate obsequiousness, beheld his struggling ideas change into winged words without ceasing to be his own. No flattery could be more adroit. The bishop accommodated himself to the king’s epistolary habits. The silver-tongued and ready debater substituted protocols for conversation, in deference to a monarch who could not speak. He corresponded with Philip, with Margaret of Parma, with everyone. He wrote folios to the duchess when they were in the same palace. He would write letters forty pages long to the king, and send off another courier on the same day with two or three additional dispatches of identical date. Such prolixity enchanted the king, whose greediness for business epistles was insatiable. The painstaking monarch toiled, pen in hand, after his wonderful minister in vain. Philip was only fit to be the bishop’s clerk, yet he imagined himself to be the directing and governing power. He scrawled apostilles in the margins to prove that he had read with attention, and persuaded himself that he suggested when he scarcely even comprehended. The bishop gave advice and issued instructions when he seemed to be only receiving them. He was the substance while he affected to be the shadow. These tactics were comparatively easy and likely to be triumphant, so long as he had only to deal with inferior intellects like those of Philip and Margaret. When he should be matched against political genius and lofty character combined, it was possible that his resources might not prove so all-sufficient.
His political principles were sharply defined in reality, but smoothed over by a conventional and decorous benevolence of language, which deceived vulgar minds. He was a strict absolutist. His deference to arbitrary power was profound and slavish. God and “the master,” as he always called Philip, he professed to serve with equal humility. “It seems to me,” said he, in a letter of this epoch, “that I shall never be able to fulfil the obligation of slave which I owe to your majesty, to whom I am bound by so firm a chain; at any rate, I shall never fail to struggle for that end with sincerity.”
As a matter of course, he was a firm opponent of the national rights of the Netherlands, however artfully he disguised the sharp sword of violent absolutism under a garland of flourishing phraseology. He had strenuously warned Philip against assembling the States-general before his departure for the sake of asking them for supplies. He earnestly deprecated allowing the constitutional authorities any control over the expenditures of the government, and averred that this practice under the Regent Mary had been the cause of endless trouble. It may easily be supposed that other rights were as little to his taste as the claim to vote the subsidies, a privilege which was in reality indisputable. Men who stood forth in defense of the provincial constitutions were, in his opinion, mere demagogues and hypocrites, their only motive being to curry favor with the populace. Yet these charters were, after all, sufficiently limited. The natural rights of man were topics which had never been broached. Man had only natural wrongs. None ventured to doubt that sovereignty was heaven-born, anointed of God. The rights of the Netherlands were special, not general; plural, not singular; liberties, not liberty; “privileges,” not maims. They were practical, not theoretical; historical, not philosophical. Still, such as they were, they were facts, acquisitions. They had been purchased by the blood and toil of brave ancestors; they amounted—however open to criticism upon broad humanitarian grounds, of which few at that day had ever dreamed—to a solid, substantial dyke against the arbitrary power which was ever chafing and fretting to destroy its barriers.
No men were more subtle or more diligent in corroding the foundation of these bulwarks than the disciples of Granvelle. Yet one would have thought it possible to tolerate an amount of practical freedom so different from the wild, social speculations which, in later days, have made both tyrants and reasonable lovers of our race tremble with apprehension. The Netherlanders claimed, mainly, the right to vote the money which was demanded in such enormous profusion from their painfully-acquired wealth; they were also unwilling to be burned alive if they objected to transubstantiation. Granvelle was most distinctly of an opposite opinion upon both topics. He strenuously deprecated the interference of the states with the subsidies, and it was by his advice that the remorseless edict of 1550, the Emperor’s ordinance of blood and fire, was re-enacted, as the very first measure of Philip’s reign. Such were his sentiments as to national and popular rights by representation. For the people itself—”that vile and mischievous animal called the people”—as he expressed it, he entertained a cheerful contempt.
His aptitude for managing men was very great, his capacity for affairs incontestable; but it must be always understood as the capacity for the affairs of absolutism. He was a clever, scheming politician, an adroit manager; it remained to be seen whether he had a claim to the character of a statesman. His industry was enormous. He could write fifty letters a day with his own hand. He could dictate to half a dozen amanuenses at once, on as many different subjects, in as many different languages, and send them all away exhausted.
He was already rich. His income from his see and other livings was estimated, in 1557, at 10,000 dollars; his property in ready money, “furniture, tapestry, and the like,” at 250,000 dollars. When it is considered that, as compared with our times, these sums represent a revenue of a hundred thousand, and a capital of two millions and a half in addition, it may be safely asserted that the prelate had at least made a good beginning. Besides his regular income, moreover, he had handsome receipts from that simony which was reduced to a system, and which gave him a liberal profit, generally in the shape of an annuity, upon every benefice which he conferred. He was, however, by no means satisfied. His appetite was as boundless as the sea; he was still a shameless mendicant of pecuniary favors and lucrative offices. Already, in 1552, the Emperor had roundly rebuked his greediness. “As to what you say of getting no ‘merced’ nor ‘ayuda de costa,’” said he, “’tis merced and ayuda de costa quite sufficient, when one has fat benefices, pensions, and salaries, with which a man might manage to support himself.” The bishop, however, was not easily abashed, and he was at the epoch which now occupies us, earnestly and successfully soliciting from Philip the lucrative abbey of Saint Armand. Not that he would have accepted this preferment, “could the abbey have been annexed to any of the new bishoprics”; on the contrary, he assured the king that “to carry out so holy a work as the erection of those new sees, he would willingly have contributed even out of his own miserable pittance.” It not being considered expedient to confiscate the abbey to any particular bishop, Philip accordingly presented it to the prelate of Arras, together with a handsome sum of money in the shape of an “ayuda de costa” beside. The thrifty bishop, who foresaw the advent of troublous times in the Netherlands, however, took care in the letters by which he sent his thanks, to instruct the king to secure the money upon crown property in Arragon, Naples, and Sicily, as matters in the provinces were beginning to look very precarious.
Such, at the commencement of the Duchess Margaret’s administration, were the characters and the previous histories of the persons into whose hands the Netherlands were entrusted. None of them have been prejudged. We have contented ourselves with stating the facts with regard to all, up to the period at which we have arrived. Their characters have been sketched, not according to subsequent developments, but as they appeared at the opening of this important epoch.
The aristocracy of the Netherlands was excessively extravagant, dissipated, and already considerably embarrassed in circumstances. It had been the policy of the Emperor and of Philip to confer high offices—civil, military, and diplomatic—upon the leading nobles, by which enormous expenses were entailed upon them, without any corresponding salaries. The case of Orange has been already alluded to, and there were many other nobles less able to afford the expense, who had been indulged with these ruinous honors. During the war, there had been, however, many chances of bettering broken fortunes. Victory brought immense prizes to the leading officers. The ransoms of so many illustrious prisoners as had graced the triumphs of Saint Quentin and Gravelines had been extremely profitable. These sources of wealth had now been cut off; yet, on the departure of the king from the Netherlands, the luxury increased instead of diminishing. “Instead of one court,” said a contemporary, “you would have said that there were fifty.” Nothing could be more sumptuous than the modes of life in Brussels. The household of Orange has been already painted. That of Egmont was almost as magnificent. A rivalry in hospitality and in display began among the highest nobles, and extended to those less able to maintain themselves in the contest. During the war there had been the valiant emulation of the battlefield; gentlemen had vied with each other how best to illustrate an ancient name with deeds of desperate valor, to repair the fortunes of a ruined house with the spoils of war. They now sought to surpass each other in splendid extravagance. It was an eager competition who should build the stateliest palaces, have the greatest number of noble pages and gentlemen in waiting, the most gorgeous liveries, the most hospitable tables, the most scientific cooks. There was, also, much depravity as well as extravagance. The morals of high society were loose. Gaming was practiced to a frightful extent.
Drunkenness was a prevailing characteristic of the higher classes. Even the Prince of Orange himself, at this period, although never addicted to habitual excess, was extremely convivial in his tastes, tolerating scenes and companions, not likely at a later day to find much favor in his sight. “We kept Saint Martin’s joyously,” he wrote, at about this period, to his brother, “and in the most jovial company. Brederode was one day in such a state that I thought he would certainly die, but he has now got over it.” Count Brederode, soon afterwards to become so conspicuous in the early scenes of the revolt, was, in truth, most notorious for his performances in these banqueting scenes. He appeared to have vowed as uncompromising hostility to cold water as to the inquisition, and always denounced both with the same fierce and ludicrous vehemence. Their constant connection with Germany at that period did not improve the sobriety of the Netherlands’ nobles. The aristocracy of that country, as is well known, were most “potent at potting.” “When the German finds himself sober,” said the bitter Badovaro, “he believes himself to be ill.” Gladly, since the peace, they had welcomed the opportunities afforded for many a deep carouse with their Netherlands cousins. The approaching marriage of the Prince of Orange with the Saxon princess—an episode which will soon engage our attention—gave rise to tremendous orgies. Count Schwartzburg, the Prince’s brother-in-law, and one of the negotiators of the marriage, found many occasions to strengthen the bonds of harmony between the countries by indulgence of these common tastes. “I have had many princes and counts at my table,” he wrote to Orange, “where a good deal more was drunk than eaten. The Rhinegrave’s brother fell down dead after drinking too much malvoisie; but we have had him balsamed and sent home to his family.”
These disorders among the higher ranks were in reality so extensive as to justify the biting remark of the Venetian: “The gentlemen intoxicate themselves every day,” said he, “and the ladies also, but much less than the men.” His remarks as to the morality, in other respects, of both sexes were equally sweeping, and not more complimentary.
If these were the characteristics of the most distinguished society, it may be supposed that they were reproduced with more or less intensity throughout all the more remote but concentric circles of life, as far as the seductive splendor of the court could radiate. The lesser nobles emulated the grandees, and vied with each other in splendid establishments, banquets, masquerades, and equipages. The natural consequences of such extravagance followed. Their estates were mortgaged, deeply and more deeply; then, after a few years, sold to the merchants, or rich advocates and other gentlemen of the robe, to whom they had been pledged. The more closely ruin stared the victims in the face, the more heedlessly did they plunge into excesses. “Such were the circumstances,” moralizes a Catholic writer, “to which, at an earlier period, the affairs of Catiline, Cethegus, Lentulus, and others of that faction had been reduced, when they undertook to overthrow the Roman republic.” Many of the nobles being thus embarrassed, and some even desperate, in their condition, it was thought that they were desirous of creating disturbances in the commonwealth, that the payment of just debts might be avoided, that their mortgaged lands might be wrested by main force from the low-born individuals who had become possessed of them, that, in particular, the rich abbey lands held by idle priests might be appropriated to the use of impoverished gentlemen who could turn them to so much better account. It is quite probable that interested motives such as these were not entirely inactive among a comparatively small class of gentlemen. The religious reformation in every land of Europe derived a portion of its strength from the opportunity it afforded to potentates and great nobles for helping themselves to Church property. No doubt many Netherlanders thought that their fortunes might be improved at the expense of the monks, and for the benefit of religion. Even without apostasy from the mother Church, they looked with longing eyes on the wealth of her favored and indolent children. They thought that the king would do well to carve a round number of handsome military commanderies out of the abbey lands, whose possessors should be bound to military service after the ancient manner of fiefs, so that a splendid cavalry, headed by the gentlemen of the country, should be ever ready to mount and ride at the royal pleasure, in place of a horde of lazy epicureans, telling beads and indulging themselves in luxurious vice.
Such views were entertained, such language often held. These circumstances and sentiments had their influence among the causes which produced the great revolt now impending. Care should be taken, however, not to exaggerate that influence. It is a prodigious mistake to refer this great historical event to sources so insufficient as the ambition of a few great nobles, and the embarrassments of a larger number of needy gentlemen. The Netherlands revolt was not an aristocratic, but a popular, although certainly not a democratic movement. It was a great episode—the longest, the darkest, the bloodiest, the most important episode in the history of the religious reformation in Europe. The nobles so conspicuous upon the surface at the outbreak, only drifted before a storm which they neither caused nor controlled. Even the most powerful and the most sagacious were tossed to and fro by the surge of great events, which, as they rolled more and more tumultuously around them, seemed to become both irresistible and unfathomable.
For the state of the people was very different from the condition of the aristocracy. The period of martyrdom had lasted long and was to last longer; but there were symptoms that it might one day be succeeded by a more active stage of popular disease. The tumults of the Netherlands were long in ripening; when the final outbreak came it would have been more philosophical to enquire, not why it had occurred, but how it could have been so long postponed. During the reign of Charles, the 16th century had been advancing steadily in strength as the once omnipotent Emperor lapsed into decrepitude. That extraordinary century had not dawned upon the earth only to increase the strength of absolutism and superstition. The new world had not been discovered, the ancient world reconquered, the printing press perfected, only that the inquisition might reign undisturbed over the fairest portions of the earth, and chartered hypocrisy fatten upon its richest lands. It was impossible that the most energetic and quick-witted people of Europe should not feel sympathy with the great effort made by Christendom to shake off the incubus which had so long paralyzed her hands and brain. In the Netherlands, where the attachment to Rome had never been intense, where in the old times, the Bishops of Utrecht had been rather Ghibelline than Guelph, where all the earlier sects of dissenters—Waldenses, Lollards, Hussites—had found numerous converts and thousands of martyrs, it was inevitable that there should be a response from the popular heart to the deeper agitation which now reached to the very core of Christendom. In those provinces, so industrious and energetic, the disgust was likely to be most easily awakened for a system under which so many friars battened in luxury upon the toils of others, contributing nothing to the taxation, nor to the military defense of the country, exercising no productive avocation, except their trade in indulgences, and squandering in taverns and brothels the annual sums derived from their traffic in licenses to commit murder, incest, and every other crime known to humanity.
The people were numerous, industrious, accustomed for centuries to a state of comparative civil freedom, and to a lively foreign trade, by which their minds were saved from the stagnation of bigotry. It was natural that they should begin to generalize, and to pass from the concrete images presented them in the Flemish monasteries to the abstract character of Rome itself. The Flemish, above all their other qualities, were a commercial nation. Commerce was the mother of their freedom, so far as they had acquired it, in civil matters. It was struggling to give birth to a larger liberty, to freedom of conscience. The provinces were situated in the very heart of Europe. The blood of a world-wide traffic was daily coursing through the thousand arteries of that water-inwoven territory. There was a mutual exchange between the Netherlands and all the world, and ideas were as liberally interchanged as goods. Truth was imported as freely as less precious merchandise. The psalms of Marot were as current as the drugs of Molucca or the diamonds of Borneo. The prohibitory measures of a despotic government could not annihilate this intellectual trade, nor could bigotry devise an effective quarantine to exclude the religious pest which lurked in every bale of merchandise, and was wafted on every breeze from East and West.
The edicts of the Emperor had been endured, but not accepted. The horrible persecution under which so many thousands had sunk had produced its inevitable result. Fertilized by all this innocent blood, the soil of the Netherlands became as a watered garden, in which liberty, civil and religious, was to flourish perennially. The scaffold had its daily victims, but did not make a single convert. The statistics of these crimes will perhaps never be accurately adjusted, nor will it be ascertained whether the famous estimate of Grotius was an exaggerated or an inadequate calculation. Those who love horrible details may find ample material. The chronicles contain the lists of these obscure martyrs; but their names, hardly pronounced in their lifetime, sound barbarously in our ears, and will never ring through the trumpet of fame. Yet they were men who dared and suffered as much as men can dare and suffer in this world, and for the noblest cause which can inspire humanity. Fanatics they certainly were not, if fanaticism consists in show, without corresponding substance. For them all was terrible reality. The Emperor and his edicts were realities; the axe, the stake were realities; and the heroism with which men took each other by the hand and walked into the flames, or with which women sang a song of triumph while the grave digger was shoveling the earth upon their living faces, was a reality also.
Thus, the people of the Netherlands were already pervaded, throughout the whole extent of the country, with the expanding spirit of religious reformation. It was inevitable that sooner or later an explosion was to arrive. They were placed between two great countries, where the new principles had already taken root. The Lutheranism of Germany and the Calvinism of France had each its share in producing the Netherland revolt, but a mistake is perhaps often made in estimating the relative proportion of these several influences. The Reformation first entered the provinces, not through the Augsburg, but the Huguenot gate. The fiery field-preachers from the South of France first inflamed the excitable hearts of the kindred population of the southwestern Netherlands. The Walloons were the first to rebel against and the first to reconcile themselves with papal Rome, exactly as their Celtic ancestors, fifteen centuries earlier, had been foremost in the revolt against imperial Rome, and precipitate in their submission to her overshadowing power. The Batavians, slower to be moved but more steadfast, retained the impulse which they received from the same source which was already agitating their “Welsh” compatriots. There were already French preachers at Valenciennes and Tournay, to be followed, as we shall have occasion to see, by many others. Without undervaluing the influence of the German Churches, and particularly of the garrison-preaching of the German military chaplains in the Netherlands, it may be safely asserted that the early Reformers of the provinces were mainly Huguenots in their belief. The Dutch Church became, accordingly, not Lutheran, but Calvinistic, and the founder of the commonwealth hardly ceased to he a nominal Catholic before he became an adherent to the same creed.
In the meantime, it is more natural to regard the great movement, psychologically speaking, as a whole, whether it revealed itself in France, Germany, the Netherlands, England, or Scotland. The policy of governments, national character, individual interests, and other collateral circumstances, modified the result, but the great cause was the same; the source of all the movements was elemental, natural, and single. The Reformation in Germany had been adjourned for half a century by the Augsburg religious peace, just concluded. It was held in suspense in France through the Machiavellian policy which Catharine de Medici had just adopted, and was for several years to prosecute, of balancing one party against the other, so as to neutralize all power but her own. The great contest was accordingly transferred to the Netherlands, to be fought out for the rest of the century, while the whole of Christendom were to look anxiously for the result. From the East and from the West the clouds rolled away, leaving a comparatively bright and peaceful atmosphere, only that they might concentrate themselves with portentous blackness over the devoted soil of the Netherlands. In Germany, the princes, not the people, had conquered Rome, and to the princes, not the people, were secured the benefits of the victory—the spoils of churches and the right to worship according to conscience. The people had the right to conform to their ruler’s creed or to depart from his land. Still, as a matter of fact, many of the princes being Reformers, a large mass of the population had acquired the privilege for their own generation and that of their children to practice that religion which they actually approved. This was a fact, and a more comfortable one than the necessity of choosing between what they considered wicked idolatry and the stake—the only election left to their Netherland brethren. In France, the accidental splinter from Montgomery’s lance had deferred the Huguenot massacre for a dozen years. During the period in which the Queen Regent was resolved to play her fast and loose policy, all the persuasions of Philip and the arts of Alva were powerless to induce her to carry out the scheme which Henry had revealed to Orange in the forest of Vincennes. When the crime came at last, it was as blundering as it was bloody, at once premeditated and accidental, the isolated execution of an interregnal conspiracy, existing for half a generation yet exploding without concert, a wholesale massacre but a piecemeal plot.
The edict of 1550 had been re-enacted immediately after Philip’s accession to sovereignty. It is necessary that the reader should be made acquainted with some of the leading provisions of this famous document, thus laid down above all the constitutions as the organic law of the land. A few plain facts, entirely without rhetorical varnish, will prove more impressive in this case than superfluous declamation. The American will judge whether the wrongs inflicted by Laud and Charles upon his Puritan ancestors were the severest which a people has had to undergo, and whether the Dutch Republic does not track its source to the same high, religious origin as that of our own commonwealth.
“No one,” said the edict, “shall print, write, copy, keep, conceal, sell, buy or give in churches, streets, or other places, any book or writing made by Martin Luther, John Ecolampadius, Ulrich Zwinglius, Martin Bucer, John Calvin, or other heretics reprobated by the Holy Church; nor break, or otherwise injure the images of the holy virgin or canonized saints; nor in his house hold conventicles, or illegal gatherings, or be present at any such in which the adherents of the above-mentioned heretics teach, baptize, and form conspiracies against the Holy Church and the general welfare.” “Moreover, we forbid,” continues the edict, in name of the sovereign, “all lay persons to converse or dispute concerning the Holy Scriptures, openly or secretly, especially on any doubtful or difficult matters, or to read, teach, or expound the Scriptures, unless they have duly studied theology and been approved by some renowned university; or to preach secretly, or openly, or to entertain any of the opinions of the above-mentioned heretics; on pain, should any one be found to have contravened any of the points above-mentioned, as perturbators of our state and of the general quiet, to be punished in the following manner.”
And how were they to be punished? What was the penalty inflicted upon the man or woman who owned a hymnbook, or who hazarded the opinion in private, that Luther was not quite wrong in doubting the power of a monk to sell for money the license to commit murder or incest; or upon the parent, not being a Roman Catholic doctor of divinity, who should read Christ’s Sermon on the Mount to his children in his own parlor or shop? How were crimes like these to be visited upon the transgressor? Was it by reprimand, fine, imprisonment, banishment, or by branding on the forehead, by the cropping of the ears or the slitting of nostrils, as was practiced upon the Puritan fathers of New England for their nonconformity? It was by a sharper chastisement than any of these methods. The Puritan fathers of the Dutch Republic had to struggle against a darker doom. The edict went on to provide:
“That such perturbators of the general quiet are to be executed, to wit: the men with the sword and the women to be buried alive, if they do not persist in their errors; if they do persist in them, then they are to be executed with fire; all their property in both cases being confiscated to the crown.”
The edict further provided against all misprision of heresy by making those who failed to betray the suspected liable to the same punishment as if suspected or convicted themselves. “We forbid,” said the decree, “all persons to lodge, entertain, furnish with food, fire, or clothing, or otherwise to favor any one holden or notoriously suspected of being a heretic; and any one failing to denounce any such we ordain shall be liable to the above-mentioned punishments.”
The edict went on to provide, “that if any person, being not convicted of heresy or error, but greatly suspected thereof, and therefore condemned by the spiritual judge to abjure such heresy, or by the secular magistrate to make public fine and reparation, shall again become suspected or tainted with heresy—although it should not appear that he has contravened or violated any one of our above-mentioned commands—nevertheless, we do will and ordain that such person shall be considered as relapsed, and, as such, be punished with loss of life and property, without any hope of moderation or mitigation of the above-mentioned penalties.”
Furthermore, it was decreed, that “the spiritual judges, desiring to proceed against any one for the crime of heresy, shall request any of our sovereign courts or provincial councils to appoint any one of their college, or such other adjunct as the council shall select, to preside over the proceedings to be instituted against the suspected. All who know of any person tainted with heresy are required to denounce and give them up to all judges, officers of the bishops, or others having authority on the premises, on pain of being punished according to the pleasure of the judge. Likewise, all shall be obliged, who know of any place where such heretics keep themselves, to declare them to the authorities, on pain of being held as accomplices, and punished as such heretics themselves would be if apprehended.”
In order to secure the greatest number of arrests by a direct appeal to the most ignoble, but not the least powerful principle of human nature, it was ordained “that the informer, in case of conviction, should be entitled to one half the property of the accused, if not more than one hundred pounds Flemish; if more, then ten percent of all such excess.”
Treachery to one’s friends was encouraged by the provision, “that if any man being present at any secret conventicle, shall afterwards come forward and betray his fellow-members of the congregation, he shall receive full pardon.”
In order that neither the good people of the Netherlands, nor the judges and inquisitors should delude themselves with the notion that these fanatic decrees were only intended to inspire terror, not for practical execution, the sovereign continued to ordain “to the end that the judges and officers may have no reason, under pretext that the penalties are too great and heavy and only devised to terrify delinquents, to punish them less severely than they deserve—that the culprits be really punished by the penalties above declared, forbidding all judges to alter or moderate the penalties in any manner—forbidding any one, of whatsoever condition, to ask of us, or of any one having authority, to grant pardon, or to present any petition in favor of such heretics, exiles, or fugitives, on penalty of being declared forever incapable of civil and military office, and of being arbitrarily punished besides.”
Such were the leading provisions of this famous edict, originally promulgated in 1550 as a recapitulation and condensation of all the previous ordinances of the Emperor upon religious subjects. By its style and title it was a perpetual edict, and, according to one of its clauses, was to be published forever, once in every six months, in every city and village of the Netherlands. It had been promulgated at Augsburg, where the Emperor was holding a diet, upon the 25th of September. Its severity had so appalled the Dowager Queen of Hungary, that she had made a journey to Augsburg expressly to procure a mitigation of some of its provisions. The principal alteration which she was able to obtain of the Emperor was, however, in the phraseology only. As a concession to popular prejudice, the words “spiritual judges” were substituted for “inquisitors” wherever that expression had occurred in the original draft.
The edict had been re-enacted by the express advice of the Bishop of Arras, immediately on the accession of Philip. The prelate knew the value of the Emperor’s name; he may have thought, also, that it would be difficult to increase the sharpness of the ordinances. “I advised the King,” says Granvelle, in a letter written a few years later, “to make no change in the placards, but to proclaim the text drawn up by the Emperor, republishing the whole as the King’s edict, with express insertion of the phrase, ‘Carolus,’ etc. I recommended this lest men should calumniate his Majesty as wishing to introduce novelties in the matter of religion.”
This edict, containing the provisions which have been laid before the reader, was now to be enforced with the utmost rigor, every official personage, from the stadholders down, having received the most stringent instructions to that effect, under Philip’s own hand. This was the first gift of Philip and of Granvelle to the Netherlands; of the monarch who said of himself that he had always, “from the beginning of his government, followed the path of clemency, according to his natural disposition, so well known to all the world”; of the prelate who said of himself, “that he had ever combated the opinion that any thing could be accomplished by terror, death, and violence.”
During the period of the French and Papal war, it has been seen that the execution of these edicts had been permitted to slacken. It was now resumed with redoubled fury. Moreover, a new measure had increased the disaffection and dismay of the people, already sufficiently filled with apprehension. As an additional security for the supremacy of the ancient religion, it had been thought desirable that the number of bishops should be increased. There were but four sees in the Netherlands, those of Arras, Cambray, Tournay, and Utrecht. That of Utrecht was within the archiepiscopate of Cologne; the other three were within that of Rheims. It seemed proper that the prelates of the Netherlands should owe no extra-provincial allegiance. It was likewise thought that three millions of souls required more than four spiritual superintendents. At any rate, whatever might be the interest of the flocks, it was certain that those broad and fertile pastures would sustain more than the present number of shepherds. The wealth of the religious houses in the provinces was very great. The abbey of Afflighem alone had a revenue of 50,000 florins, and there were many others scarcely inferior in wealth. But these institutions were comparatively independent both of king and pope. Electing their own superiors from time to time, in nowise desirous of any change by which their ease might be disturbed and their riches endangered, the honest friars were not likely to engage in any very vigorous crusade against heresy, nor for the sake of introducing or strengthening Spanish institutions, which they knew to be abominated by the people, to take the risk of driving all their disciples into revolt and apostasy. Comforting themselves with an Erasmian philosophy, which they thought best suited to the times, they were as little likely as the Sage of Rotterdam himself would have been, to make martyrs of themselves for the sake of extirpating Calvinism. The abbots and monks were, in political matters, very much under the influence of the great nobles, in whose company they occupied the benches of the upper house of the States-general.
Doctor Francis Sonnius had been sent on a mission to the pope, for the purpose of representing the necessity of an increase in the episcopal force of the Netherlands. Just as the king was taking his departure, the commissioner arrived, bringing with him the bull of Paul IV, dated May 18, 1559. This was afterwards confirmed by that of Pius IV, in January of the following year. The document stated that “Paul IV, slave of slaves, wishing to provide for the welfare of the provinces and the eternal salvation of their inhabitants, had determined to plant in that fruitful field several new bishoprics.” “The enemy of mankind being abroad,” said the bull, “in so many forms at that particular time, and the Netherlands, then under the sway of that beloved son of his holiness, Philip the Catholic, being compassed about with heretic and schismatic nations, it was believed that the eternal welfare of the land was in great danger. At the period of the original establishment of Cathedral churches, the provinces had been sparsely peopled; they had now become filled to overflowing, so that the original ecclesiastical arrangement did not suffice. The harvest was plentiful, but the laborers were few.”
In consideration of these and other reasons, three archbishoprics were accordingly appointed. That of Mechlin was to be principal, under which were constituted six bishoprics, those, namely, of Antwerp, Bois le Duc, Rurmond, Ghent, Bruges, and Ypres. That of Cambray was second, with the four subordinate dioceses of Tournay, Arras, Saint Omer and Namur. The third archbishopric was that of Utrecht, with the five sees of Haarlem, Middelburg, Leeuwarden, Groningen and Deventer.
The nomination to these important offices was granted to the king, subject to confirmation by the pope. Moreover, it was ordained by the bull that “each bishop should appoint nine additional prebendaries, who were to assist him in the matter of the inquisition throughout his bishopric, two of whom were themselves to be inquisitors.”
To sustain these two great measures, through which Philip hoped once and forever to extinguish the Netherland heresy, it was considered desirable that the Spanish troops still remaining in the provinces should be kept there indefinitely.
The force was not large, amounting hardly to four thousand men, but they were unscrupulous, and admirably disciplined. As the entering wedge, by which a military and ecclesiastical despotism was eventually to be forced into the very heart of the land, they were invaluable. The moral effect to be hoped from the regular presence of a Spanish standing army during a time of peace in the Netherlands could hardly be exaggerated. Philip was therefore determined to employ every argument and subterfuge to detain the troops.
Against the arbitrary policy embodied in the edicts, the new bishoprics and the foreign soldiery, the Netherlanders appealed to their ancient constitutions. These charters were called “handvests” in the vernacular Dutch and Flemish, because the sovereign made them fast with his hand. As already stated, Philip had made them faster than any of the princes of his house had ever done, so far as oath and signature could accomplish that purpose, both as hereditary prince in 1549, and as monarch in 1555. The reasons for the extensive and unconditional manner in which he swore to support the provincial charters, have been already indicated.
Of these constitutions, that of Brabant, known by the title of the joyeuse entrée, blyde inkomst, or blithe entrance, furnished the most decisive barrier against the present wholesale tyranny. First and foremost, the “joyous entry” provided “that the prince of the land should not elevate the clerical state higher than of old has been customary and by former princes settled; unless by consent of the other two estates, the nobility and the cities.”
Again, “the prince can prosecute no one of his subjects nor any foreign resident, civilly or criminally, except in the ordinary and open courts of justice in the province, where the accused may answer and defend himself with the help of advocates.”
Lastly, “should the prince, by force or otherwise, violate any of these privileges, the inhabitants of Brabant, after regular protest entered, are discharged of their oaths of allegiance, and as free, independent and unbound people, may conduct themselves exactly as seems to them best.”
Such were the leading features, so far as they regarded the points now at issue, of that famous constitution which was so highly esteemed in the Netherlands, that mothers came to the province in order to give birth to their children, who might thus enjoy, as a birthright, the privileges of Brabant. Yet the charters of the other provinces ought to have been as effective against the arbitrary course of the government. “No foreigner,” said the constitution of Holland, “is eligible as councillor, financier, magistrate, or member of a court. Justice can be administered only by the ordinary tribunals and magistrates. The ancient laws and customs shall remain inviolable. Should the prince infringe any of these provisions, no one is bound to obey him.”
These provisions, from the Brabant and Holland charters, are only cited as illustrative of the general spirit of the provincial constitutions. Nearly all the provinces possessed privileges equally ample, duly signed and sealed. So far as ink and sealing wax could defend a land against sword and fire, the Netherlands were impregnable against the edicts and the renewed episcopal inquisition. Unfortunately, all history shows how feeble are barriers of paper or lambskin, even when hallowed with a monarch’s oath, against the torrent of regal and ecclesiastical absolutism. It was on the reception in the provinces of the new and confirmatory bull concerning the bishoprics, issued in January 1560, that the measure became known, and the dissatisfaction manifest. The discontent was inevitable and universal. The ecclesiastical establishment which was not to be enlarged or elevated but by consent of the estates, was suddenly expanded into three archiepiscopates and fifteen bishoprics. The administration of justice, which was only allowed in free and local courts, distinct for each province, was to be placed, so far as regarded the most important of human interests, in the hands of bishops and their creatures, many of them foreigners and most of them monks. The lives and property of the whole population were to be at the mercy of these utterly irresponsible conclaves.
All classes were outraged. The nobles were offended because ecclesiastics, perhaps foreign ecclesiastics, were to be empowered to sit in the provincial estates and to control their proceedings in place of easy, indolent, ignorant abbots and friars, who had generally accepted the influence of the great seignors. The priests were enraged because the religious houses were thus taken out of their control and confiscated to a bench of bishops, usurping the places of those superiors who had formally been elected by and among themselves. The people were alarmed because the monasteries, although not respected nor popular, were at least charitable, and without ambition to exercise ecclesiastical cruelty; while, on the other hand, by the new episcopal arrangements, a force of thirty new inquisitors was added to the apparatus for enforcing orthodoxy already established. The odium of the measure was placed upon the head of that churchman, already appointed Archbishop of Mechlin, and soon to be known as Cardinal Granvelle. From this time forth, this prelate began to be regarded with a daily increasing aversion. He was looked upon as the incarnation of all the odious measures which had been devised, as the source of that policy of absolutism which revealed itself more and more rapidly after the king’s departure from the country. It was for this reason that so much stress was laid by popular clamor upon the clause prohibiting foreigners from office. Granvelle was a Burgundian; his father had passed most of his active life in Spain, while both he and his more distinguished son were identified in the general mind with Spanish politics. To this prelate, then, were ascribed the edicts, the new bishoprics, and the continued presence of the foreign troops. The people were right as regarded the first accusation. They were mistaken as to the other charges.
The king had not consulted Anthony Perrenot with regard to the creation of the new bishoprics. The measure, which had been successively contemplated by Philip “the Good,” by Charles the Bold, and by the Emperor Charles, had now been carried out by Philip II, without the knowledge of the new Archbishop of Mechlin. The king had for once been able to deceive the astuteness of the prelate, and had concealed from him the intended arrangement, until the arrival of Sonnius with the bulls. Granvelle gave the reasons for this mystery with much simplicity. “His Majesty knew,” he said, “that I should oppose it, as it was more honorable and lucrative to be one of four than one of eighteen.” In fact, according to his own statement, he lost money by becoming archbishop of Mechlin, and ceasing to be Bishop of Arras. For these reasons he declined, more than once, the proffered dignity, and at last only accepted it from fear of giving offense to the king, and after having secured compensation for his alleged losses. In the same letter (of May 29, 1560) in which he thanked Philip for conferring upon him the rich abbey of Saint Armand, which he had solicited, in addition to the “merced” in ready money, concerning the safe investment of which he had already sent directions, he observed that he was now willing to accept the archbishopric of Mechlin; notwithstanding the odium attached to the measure, notwithstanding his feeble powers, and notwithstanding that, during the life of the Bishop of Tournay, who was then in rude health, he could only receive three thousand ducats of the revenue, giving up Arras and gaining nothing in Mechlin; notwithstanding all this, and a thousand other things besides, he assured his Majesty that, “since the royal desire was so strong that he should accept, he would consider nothing so difficult that he would not at least attempt it.”
Having made up his mind to take the see and support the new arrangements, he was resolved that his profits should be as large as possible. We have seen how he had already been enabled to indemnify himself. We shall find him soon afterwards importuning the king for the Abbey of Afflighem, the enormous revenue of which the prelate thought would make another handsome addition to the rewards of his sacrifices. At the same time, he was most anxious that the people, and particularly the great nobles, should not ascribe the new establishment to him, as they persisted in doing. “They say that the episcopates were devised to gratify my ambition,” he wrote to Philip two years later, “whereas your Majesty knows how steadily I refused the see of Mechlin, and that I only accepted it in order not to live in idleness, doing nothing for God and your Majesty.” He therefore instructed Philip, on several occasions, to make it known to the government of the regent, to the seignors, and to the country generally, that the measure had been arranged without his knowledge, that the Marquis Berghen had known of it first, and that the prelate had, in truth, been kept in the dark on the subject until the arrival of Sonnius with the bulls. The king, always docile to his minister, accordingly wrote to the duchess the statements required, in almost the exact phraseology suggested, taking pains to repeat the declarations on several occasions, both by letter and by word of mouth, to many influential persons.
The people, however, persisted in identifying the bishop with the scheme. They saw that he was the head of the new institutions, that he was to receive the lion’s share of the confiscated abbeys, and that he was foremost in defending and carrying through the measure, in spite of all opposition. That opposition waxed daily more bitter, till the cardinal, notwithstanding that he characterized the arrangement to the king as “a holy work,” and warmly assured Secretary Perez that he would contribute his fortune, his blood, and his life, to its success, was yet obliged to exclaim in the bitterness of his spirit, “Would to God that the erection of these new sees had never been thought of. Amen! Amen!”
Foremost in resistance was the prince of Orange. Although a Catholic, he had no relish for the horrible persecution which had been determined upon. The new bishoprics he characterized afterwards as parts “of one grand scheme for establishing the cruel inquisition of Spain; the said bishops to serve as inquisitors, burners of bodies, and tyrants of conscience: two prebendaries in each see being actually constituted inquisitors.” For this reason he omitted no remonstrance on the subject to the duchess, to Granvelle, and by direct letters to the king. His efforts were seconded by Egmont, Berghen, and other influential nobles. Even Berlaymont was at first disposed to side with the opposition, but upon the argument used by the duchess, that the bishoprics and prebends would furnish excellent places for his sons and other members of the aristocracy, he began warmly to support the measure. Most of the labor, however, and all the odium, of the business fell upon the bishop’s shoulders. There was still a large fund of loyalty left in the popular mind, which not even forty years of the Emperor’s dominion had consumed, and which Philip was destined to draw upon as prodigally as if the treasure had been inexhaustible. For these reasons it still seemed most decorous to load all the hatred upon the minister’s back, and to retain the consolatory formula that Philip was a prince, “clement, benign, and debonair.”
The bishop, true to his habitual conviction, that words, with the people, are much more important than things, was disposed to have the word “inquisitor” taken out of the text of the new decree. He was anxious at this juncture to make things pleasant, and he saw no reason why men should be unnecessarily startled. If the inquisition could be practiced, and the heretics burned, he was in favor of its being done comfortably. The word “inquisitor” was unpopular, almost indecent. It was better to suppress the term and retain the thing. “People are afraid to speak of the new bishoprics,” he wrote to Perez, “on account of the clause providing that of nine canons one shall be inquisitor. Hence people fear the Spanish inquisition.” He, therefore, had written to the king to suggest instead, that the canons or graduates should be obliged to assist the bishop, according as he might command. Those terms would suffice, because, although not expressly stated, it was clear that the bishop was an ordinary inquisitor; but it was necessary to expunge words that gave offence.
It was difficult, however, with all the bishop’s eloquence and dexterity, to construct an agreeable inquisition. The people did not like it, in any shape, and there were indications, not to be mistaken, that one day there would be a storm which it would be beyond human power to assuage. At present the people directed their indignation only upon a part of the machinery devised for their oppression. The Spanish troops were considered as a portion of the apparatus by which the new bishoprics and the edicts were to be forced into execution. Moreover, men were weary of the insolence and the pillage which these mercenaries had so long exercised in the land. When the king had been first requested to withdraw them, we have seen that he had burst into a violent passion. He had afterward dissembled. Promising, at last, that they should all be sent from the country within three or four months after his departure, he had determined to use every artifice to detain them in the provinces. He had succeeded, by various subterfuges, in keeping them there fourteen months, but it was at last evident that their presence would no longer be tolerated.
Towards the close of 1560 they were quartered in Walcheren and Brill. The Zealanders, however, had become so exasperated by their presence that they resolutely refused to lay a single hand upon the dykes, which, as usual at that season, required great repairs. Rather than see their native soil profaned any longer by these hated foreign mercenaries, they would see it sunk forever in the ocean. They swore to perish—men, women, and children together—in the waves, rather than endure longer the outrages which the soldiery daily inflicted. Such was the temper of the Zealanders that it was not thought wise to trifle with their irritation. The bishop felt that it was no longer practicable to detain the troops, and that all the pretext devised by Philip and his government had become ineffectual. In a session of the State Council, held on the 25th of October, 1560, he represented in the strongest terms to the regent the necessity for the final departure of the troops. Viglius, who knew the character of his countrymen, strenuously seconded the proposal. Orange briefly but firmly expressed the same opinion, declining any longer to serve as commander of the legion, an office which, in conjunction with Egmont, he had accepted provisionally, with the best of motives, and on the pledge of Philip that the soldiers should be withdrawn. The duchess urged that the order should at least be deferred until the arrival of Count Egmont, then in Spain, but the proposition was unanimously negatived.
Letters were accordingly written, in the name of the regent, to the king. It was stated that the measure could no longer be delayed, that the provinces all agreed in this point, that so long as the foreigners remained not a stiver should be paid into the treasury; that if they had once set sail, the necessary amount for their arrears would be furnished to the government; but that if they should return it was probable that they would be resisted by the inhabitants with main force, and that they would only be allowed to enter the cities through a breach in their wall. It was urged, moreover, that three or four thousand Spaniards would not be sufficient to coerce all the provinces, and that there was not money enough in the royal exchequer to pay the wages of a single company of the troops. “It cuts me to the heart,” wrote the bishop to Philip, “to see the Spanish infantry leave us; but go they must. Would to God that we could devise any pretext, as your Majesty desires, under which to keep them here! We have tried all means humanly possible for retaining them, but I see no way to do it without putting the provinces in manifest danger of sudden revolt.”
Fortunately for the dignity of the government, or for the repose of the country, a respectable motive was found for employing the legion elsewhere. The important loss which Spain had recently met with in the capture of Zerby made a reinforcement necessary in the army engaged in the Southern service. Thus, the disaster in Barbary at last relieved the Netherlands of the pest which had afflicted them so long. For a brief breathing space the country was cleared of foreign mercenaries.
The growing unpopularity of the royal government, still typified, however, in the increasing hatred entertained for the bishop, was not materially diminished by the departure of the Spaniards. The edicts and the bishoprics were still there, even if the soldiers were gone. The churchman worked faithfully to accomplish his master’s business. Philip, on his side, was industrious to bring about the consummation of his measures. Ever occupied with details, the monarch, from his palace in Spain, sent frequent informations against the humblest individuals in the Netherlands. It is curious to observe the minute reticulations of tyranny which he had begun already to spin about a whole people, while cold, venomous, and patient, he watched his victims from the center of his web. He forwarded particular details to the duchess and cardinal concerning a variety of men and women, sending their names, ages, personal appearance, occupations, and residence, together with directions for their immediate immolation. Even the inquisitors of Seville were set to work to increase, by means of their branches or agencies in the provinces, the royal information on this all-important subject. “There are but few of us left in the world,” he moralized in a letter to the bishop, “who care for religion. ’Tis necessary, therefore, for us to take the greater heed for Christianity. We must lose our all, if need be, in order to do our duty.” “In fine,” added he, with his usual tautology, “it is right that a man should do his duty.”
Granvelle—as he must now be called, for his elevation to the cardinalship will be immediately alluded to—wrote to assure the king that every pains would be taken to ferret out and execute the individuals complained of. He bewailed, however, the want of heartiness on the part of the Netherland inquisitors and judges. “I find,” said he, “that all judicial officers go into the matter of executing the edicts with reluctance, which I believe is caused by their fear of displeasing the populace. When they do act they do it but languidly, and when these matters are not taken in hand with the necessary liveliness, the fruit desired is not gathered. We do not fail to exhort and to command them to do their work.” He added that Viglius and Berlaymont displayed laudable zeal, but that he could not say as much for the Council of Brabant. Those councillors “were forever prating,” said he, “of the constitutional rights of their province, and deserved much less commendation.”
The popularity of the churchman, not increased by these desperate exertions to force an inhuman policy upon an unfortunate nation, received likewise no addition from his new elevation in rank. During the latter part of the year 1560, Margaret of Parma, who still entertained a profound admiration of the prelate, and had not yet begun to chafe under his smooth but imperious dominion, had been busy in preparing for him a delightful surprise. Without either his knowledge or that of the king, she had corresponded with the pope, and succeeded in obtaining, as a personal favor to herself, the cardinal’s hat for Anthony Perrenot. In February 1561, Cardinal Borromeo wrote to announce that the coveted dignity had been bestowed. The duchess hastened, with joyous alacrity, to communicate the intelligence to the bishop, but was extremely hurt to find that he steadily refused to assume his new dignity, until he had written to the king to announce the appointment, and to ask his permission to accept the honor. The duchess, justly wounded at his refusal to accept from her hands the favor which she, and she only, had obtained for him, endeavored in vain to overcome his pertinacity. She represented that although Philip was not aware of the application or the appointment, he was certain to regard it as an agreeable surprise. She urged, moreover, that his temporary refusal would be misconstrued at Rome, where it would certainly excite ridicule, and very possibly give offense in the highest quarter. The bishop was inexorable. He feared, says his panegyrist, that he might one day be on worse terms than at present with the duchess, and that then she might reproach him with her former benefits. He feared also that the king might, in consequence of the step, not look with satisfaction upon him at some future period, when he might stand in need of his favors. He wrote, accordingly, a most characteristic letter to Philip, in which he informed him that he had been honored with the cardinal’s hat. He observed that many persons were already congratulating him, but that before he made any demonstration of accepting or refusing, he waited for his Majesty’s orders—upon his will he wished ever to depend. He also had the coolness, under the circumstances, to express his conviction that “it was his Majesty who had secretly procured this favor from his Holiness.”
The king received the information very graciously, observing in reply that, although he had never made any suggestion of the kind, he had “often thought upon the subject.” The royal command was of course at once transmitted, that the dignity should be accepted. By special favor, moreover, the pope dispensed the new cardinal from the duty of going to Rome in person, and dispatched his chamberlain, Theophilus Friso, to Brussels, with the red hat and tabbard.
The prelate, having thus reached the dignity to which he had long aspired, did not grow more humble in his deportment, or less zealous in the work through which he had already gained so much wealth and preferment. His conduct with regard to the edicts and bishoprics had already brought him into relations which were far from amicable with his colleagues in the council. More and more he began to take the control of affairs into his own hand. The consulta, or secret committee of the state council, constituted the real government of the country. Here the most important affairs were decided upon without the concurrence of the other seignors, Orange, Egmont, and Glayon, who, at the same time, were held responsible for the action of government. The cardinal was smooth in manner, plausible of speech, generally even-tempered, but he was overbearing and blandly insolent. Accustomed to control royal personages, under the garb of extreme obsequiousness, he began, in his intercourse with those of less exalted rank, to omit a portion of the subserviency while claiming a still more undisguised authority. To nobles like Egmont and Orange, who looked down upon the son of Nicolas Perrenot and Nicola Bonvalot as a person immeasurably beneath themselves in the social hierarchy, this conduct was sufficiently irritating. The cardinal, placed as far above Philip, and even Margaret, in mental power as he was beneath them in worldly station, found it comparatively easy to deal with them amicably. With such a man as Egmont, it was impossible for the churchman to maintain friendly relations. The count, who, notwithstanding his romantic appearance, his brilliant exploits, and his interesting destiny, was but a commonplace character, soon conceived a mortal aversion to Granvelle. A rude soldier, entertaining no respect for science or letters, ignorant and overbearing, he was not the man to submit to the airs of superiority which pierced daily more and more decidedly through the conventional exterior of the cardinal. Granvelle, on the other hand, entertained a gentle contempt for Egmont, which manifested itself in all his private letters to the king, and was sufficiently obvious in his deportment.
There had also been distinct causes of animosity between them. The governorship of Hesdin having become vacant, Egmont, backed by Orange and other nobles, had demanded it for the Count de Roeulx, a gentleman of the Croy family, who, as well as his father, had rendered many important services to the crown. The appointment was, however, bestowed, through Granvelle’s influence, upon the Seigneur d’Helfault, a gentleman of mediocre station and character, who was thought to possess no claims whatever to the office. Egmont, moreover, desired the abbey of Trulle for a poor relation of his own, but the cardinal, to whom nothing in this way ever came amiss, had already obtained the king’s permission to appropriate the abbey to himself. Egmont was now furious against the prelate, and omitted no opportunity of expressing his aversion, both in his presence and behind his back. On one occasion, at least, his wrath exploded in something more than words. Exasperated by Granvelle’s polished insolence in reply to his own violent language, he drew his dagger upon him in the presence of the regent herself, “and,” says a contemporary, “would certainly have sent the cardinal into the next world had he not been forcibly restrained by the prince of Orange and other persons present, who warmly represented to him that such griefs were to be settled by deliberate advice, not by choler.” At the same time, while scenes like these were occurring in the very bosom of the state council, Granvelle, in his confidential letters to secretary Perez, asserted warmly that all reports of a want of harmony between himself and the other seignors and councillors were false, and that the best relations existed among them all. It was not his intention, before it should be necessary, to let the king doubt his ability to govern the counsel according to the secret commission with which he had been invested.
His relations with Orange were longer in changing from friendship to open hostility. In the prince the cardinal met his match. He found himself confronted by an intellect as subtle, an experience as fertile in expedients, a temper as even, and a disposition sometimes as haughty as his own. He never affected to undervalue the mind of Orange. “’Tis a man of profound genius, vast ambition—dangerous, acute, politic,” he wrote to the king at a very early period. The original relations between himself and the prince had been very amicable. It hardly needed the prelate’s great penetration to be aware that the friendship of so exalted a personage as the youthful heir to the principality of Orange, and to the vast possessions of the Chalons-Nassau house in Burgundy and the Netherlands, would be advantageous to the ambitious son of the Burgundian Councillor Granvelle. The young man was the favorite of the Emperor from boyhood; his high rank, and his remarkable talents marked him indisputably for one of the foremost men of the coming reign. Therefore it was politic in Perrenot to seize every opportunity of making himself useful to the prince. He busied himself with securing, so far as it might be necessary to secure, the succession of William to his cousin’s principality. It seems somewhat ludicrous for a merit to be made not only for Granvelle but for the Emperor, that the prince should have been allowed to take an inheritance which the will of Réné de Nassau most unequivocally conferred, and which no living creature disputed. Yet, because some of the crown lawyers had propounded the dogma that “the son of a heretic ought not to succeed,” it was gravely stated as an immense act of clemency upon the part of Charles V that he had not confiscated the whole of the young prince’s heritage. In return Granvelle’s brother Jerome had obtained the governorship of the youth, upon whose majority he had received an honorable military appointment from his attached pupil. The prelate had afterwards recommended the marriage with the Count de Buren’s heiress, and had used his influence with the Emperor to overcome certain objections entertained by Charles, that the prince, by this great accession of wealth, might be growing too powerful. On the other hand, there were always many poor relations and dependents of Granvelle, eager to be benefited by Orange’s patronage, who lived in the prince’s household, or received handsome appointments from his generosity. Thus, there had been great intimacy, founded upon various benefits mutually conferred; for it could hardly be asserted that the debt of friendship was wholly upon one side.
When Orange arrived in Brussels from a journey, he would go to the bishop’s before alighting at his own house. When the churchman visited the prince, he entered his bedchamber without ceremony before he had risen; for it was William’s custom, through life, to receive intimate acquaintances, and even to attend to important negotiations of state, while still in bed.
The show of this intimacy had lasted longer than its substance. Granvelle was the most politic of men, and the prince had not served his apprenticeship at the court of Charles V to lay himself bare prematurely to the criticism or the animosity of the cardinal with the recklessness of Horn and Egmont. An explosion came at last, however, and very soon after an exceedingly amicable correspondence between the two upon the subject of an edict of religious amnesty which Orange was preparing for his principality, and which Granvelle had recommended him not to make too lenient. A few weeks after this, the Antwerp magistracy was to be renewed. The prince, as hereditary burgrave of that city, was entitled to a large share of the appointing power in these political arrangements, which at the moment were of great importance. The citizens of Antwerp were in a state of excitement on the subject of the new bishops. They openly, and in the event, successfully resisted the installation of the new prelate for whom their city had been constituted a diocese. The prince was known to be opposed to the measure, and to the whole system of ecclesiastical persecution. When the nominations for the new magistracy came before the regent, she disposed of the whole matter in the secret consulta, without the knowledge, and in a manner opposed to the views of Orange. He was then furnished with a list of the new magistrates, and was informed that he had been selected as commissioner along with Count Aremberg, to see that the appointments were carried into effect.
The indignation of the prince was extreme. He had already taken offense at some insolent expressions upon this topic, which the cardinal had permitted himself. He now sent back the commission to the duchess, adding, it was said, that he was not her lackey, and that she might send someone else with her errands. The words were repeated in the state council. There was a violent altercation, Orange vehemently resenting his appointment merely to carry out decisions in which he claimed an original voice. His ancestors, he said, had often changed the whole of the Antwerp magistracy by their own authority. It was a little too much that this matter, as well as every other state affair, should be controlled by the secret committee of which the cardinal was the chief. Granvelle, on his side, was also in a rage. He flung from the council-chamber, summoned the Chancellor of Brabant, and demanded, amid bitter execrations against Orange, what common and obscure gentleman there might be, whom he could appoint to execute the commission thus refused by the prince and by Aremberg. He vowed that in all important matters he would, on future occasions, make use of nobles less inflated by pride, and more tractable than such grand seignors. The chancellor tried in vain to appease the churchman’s wrath, representing that the city of Antwerp would be highly offended at the turn things were taking, and offering his services to induce the withdrawal, on the part of the prince, of the language which had given so much offense. The cardinal was inexorable and peremptory. “I will have nothing to do with the prince, Master Chancellor,” said he, “and these are matters which concern you not.” Thus the conversation ended, and thus began the open state of hostilities between the great nobles and the cardinal, which had been brooding so long.
On the 23rd of July, 1561, a few weeks after the scenes lately described, the Count of Egmont and the prince of Orange addressed a joint letter to the king. They reminded him in this dispatch that they had originally been reluctant to take office in the state council, on account of their previous experience of the manner in which business had been conducted during the administration of the Duke of Savoy. They had feared that important matters of state might be transacted without their concurrence. The king had, however, assured them, when in Zealand, that all affairs would be uniformly treated in full council. If the contrary should ever prove the case, he had desired them to give him information to that effect, that he might instantly apply the remedy. They accordingly now gave him that information. They were consulted upon small matters; momentous affairs were decided upon in their absence. Still they would not even now have complained had not Cardinal Granvelle declared that all the members of the state council were to be held responsible for its measures, whether they were present at its decisions or not. Not liking such responsibility, they requested the king either to accept their resignation or to give orders that all affairs should be communicated to the whole board and deliberated upon by all the councillors.
In a private letter, written some weeks later (August 15), Egmont begged secretary Erasso to assure the king that their joint letter had not been dictated by passion, but by zeal for his service. It was impossible, he said, to imagine the insolence of the cardinal, nor to form an idea of the absolute authority which he arrogated.
In truth, Granvelle, with all his keenness, could not see that Orange, Egmont, Berghen, Montigny and the rest, were no longer pages and young captains of cavalry, while he was the politician and the statesman. By six or seven years the senior of Egmont, and by sixteen years of Orange, he did not divest himself of the superciliousness of superior wisdom, not unjust nor so irritating when they had all been boys. In his deportment towards them, and in the whole tone of his private correspondence with Philip, there was revealed, almost in spite of himself, an affectation of authority, against which Egmont rebelled and which the prince was not the man to acknowledge. Philip answered the letter of the two nobles in his usual procrastinating manner. The Count of Horn, who was about leaving Spain (whither he had accompanied the king) for the Netherlands, would be entrusted with the resolution which he should think proper to take upon the subject suggested. In the meantime, he assured them that he did not doubt their zeal in his service.
As to Count Horn, Granvelle had already prejudiced the king against him. Horn and the cardinal had never been friends. A brother of the prelate had been an aspirant for the hand of the admiral’s sister, and had been somewhat contemptuously rejected. Horn, a bold, vehement, and not very good-tempered personage, had long kept no terms with Granvelle, and did not pretend a friendship which he had never felt. Granvelle had just written to instruct the king that Horn was opposed bitterly to that measure which was nearest the king’s heart—the new bishoprics. He had been using strong language, according to the cardinal, in opposition to the scheme, while still in Spain. He therefore advised that his Majesty, concealing, of course, the source of the information, and speaking as it were out of the royal mind itself, should expostulate with the admiral upon the subject. Thus prompted, Philip was in no gracious humor when he received Count Horn, then about to leave Madrid for the Netherlands, and to take with him the king’s promised answer to the communication of Orange and Egmont. His Majesty had rarely been known to exhibit so much anger towards any person as he manifested upon that occasion. After a few words from the admiral, in which he expressed his sympathy with the other Netherland nobles, and his aversion to Granvelle, in general terms, and in reply to Philip’s interrogatories, the king fiercely interrupted him: “What! miserable man!” he vociferated, “you all complain of this cardinal, and always in vague language. Not one of you, in spite of all my questions, can give me a single reason for your dissatisfaction.” With this, the royal wrath boiled over in such unequivocal terms that the admiral changed color, and was so confused with indignation and astonishment, that he was scarcely able to find his way out of the room.
This was the commencement of Granvelle’s long mortal combat with Egmont, Horn, and Orange. This was the first answer which the seignors were to receive to their remonstrances against the churchman’s arrogance. Philip was enraged that any opposition should be made to his coercive measures, particularly to the new bishoprics, the “holy work” which the cardinal was ready to “consecrate his fortune and his blood” to advance. Granvelle fed his master’s anger by constant communications as to the efforts made by distinguished individuals to delay the execution of the scheme. Assonville had informed him, he wrote, that much complaint had been made on the subject by several gentlemen, at a supper of Count Egmont’s. It was said that the king ought to have consulted them all, and the state councillors especially. The present nominees to the new episcopates were good enough, but it would be found, they said, that very improper personages would be afterwards appointed. The estates ought not to permit the execution of the scheme. In short, continued Granvelle, “there is the same kind of talk which brought about the recall of the Spanish troops.” A few months later, he wrote to inform Philip that a petition against the new bishoprics was about to be drawn up by “the two lords.” They had two motives, according to the cardinal, for this step—first, to let the king know that he could do nothing without their permission; secondly, because in the states’ assembly they were then the cocks of the walk. They did not choose, therefore, that in the clerical branch of the estates any body should be above the abbots, whom they could frighten into doing whatever they chose.
At the end of the year, Granvelle again wrote to instruct his sovereign how to reply to the letter which was about to be addressed to him by the prince of Orange and the Marquis Berghen on the subject of the bishoprics. They would tell him, he said, that the incorporation of the Brabant abbeys into the new bishoprics was contrary to the constitution of the “joyful entrance.” Philip was, however, to make answer that he had consulted the universities, and those learned in the laws, and had satisfied himself that it was entirely constitutional. He was therefore advised to send his command that the prince and marquis should use all their influence to promote the success of the measure. Thus fortified, the king was enabled not only to deal with the petition of the nobles, but also with the deputies from the estates of Brabant, who arrived about this time at Madrid. To these envoys, who asked for the appointment of royal commissioners, with whom they might treat on the subject of the bishoprics, the abbeys, and the “joyful entrance,” the king answered proudly, “that in matters which concerned the service of God, he was his own commissioner.” He afterwards, accordingly, recited to them, with great accuracy, the lesson which he had privately received from the ubiquitous cardinal.
Philip was determined that no remonstrance from great nobles or from private citizens should interfere with the thorough execution of the grand scheme on which he was resolved, and of which the new bishoprics formed an important part. Opposition irritated him more and more, till his hatred of the opponents became deadly; but it, at the same time, confirmed him in his purpose. “’Tis no time to temporize,” he wrote to Granvelle, “we must inflict chastisement with full rigor and severity. These rascals can only be made to do right through fear, and not always even by that means.”
At the same time, the royal finances did not admit of any very active measures, at the moment, to enforce obedience to a policy which was already so bitterly opposed. A rough estimate, made in the king’s own handwriting, of the resources and obligations of his exchequer, a kind of balance sheet for the years 1560 and 1561, drawn up much in the same manner as that in which a simple individual would make a note of his income and expenditure, gave but a dismal picture of his pecuniary condition. It served to show how intelligent a financier is despotism, and how little available are the resources of a mighty empire when regarded merely as private property, particularly when the owner chances to have the vanity of attending to all details himself. “Twenty millions of ducats,” began the memorandum, “will be required to disengage my revenues.” “But of this,” added the king, with whimsical pathos for an account-book, “we will not speak at present, as the matter is so entirely impossible.” He then proceeded to enter the various items of expense which were to be met during the two years; such as so many millions due to the Fuggers (the Rothschild’s of the 16th century), so many to merchants in Flanders, Seville, and other places, so much for Prince Doria’s galleys, so much for three years’ pay due to his guards, so much for his household expenditure, so much for the tuition of Don Carlos and Don Juan d’Austria, so much for salaries of ambassadors and councillors, mixing personal and state expenses, petty items and great loans, in one singular jumble, but arriving at a total demand upon his purse of 10,990,000 ducats.
To meet this expenditure he painfully enumerated the funds upon which he could reckon for the two years. His ordinary rents and taxes being all deeply pledged, he could only calculate from that source upon 200,000 ducats. The Indian revenue, so called, was nearly spent; still it might yield him 420,000 ducats. The quicksilver mines would produce something, but so little as hardly to require mentioning. As to the other mines, they were equally unworthy of notice, being so very uncertain, and not doing as well as they were wont. The licenses accorded by the crown to carry slaves to America were put down at 50,000 ducats for the two years. The product of the “crozada” and “cuarta,” or money paid to him in small sums by individuals, with the permission of his Holiness, for the liberty of abstaining from the Church fasts, was estimated at 500,000 ducats. These and a few more meager items only sufficed to stretch his income to a total of 1,330,000 for the two years, against an expenditure calculated at near eleven millions. “Thus, there are nine millions, less three thousand ducats, deficient,” he concluded ruefully (and making a mistake in his figures in his own favor of 663,000 besides), “which I may look for in the sky, or try to raise by inventions already exhausted.”
Thus, the man who owned all America and half of Europe could only raise a million ducats a year from his estates. The possessor of all Peru and Mexico could reckon on “nothing worth mentioning” from his mines, and derived a precarious income mainly from permissions granted his subjects to carry on the slave trade and to eat meat on Fridays. This was certainly a gloomy condition of affairs for a monarch on the threshold of a war which was to outlast his own life and that of his children, a war in which the mere army expenses were to be half a million florins monthly, in which about seventy percent of the annual disbursements was to be regularly embezzled or appropriated by the hands through which it passed, and in which for every four men on paper, enrolled and paid for, only one, according to the average, was brought into the field.
Granvelle, on the other hand, gave his master but little consolation from the aspect of financial affairs in the provinces. He assured him that “the government was often in such embarrassment as not to know where to look for ten ducats.” He complained bitterly that the states would meddle with the administration of money matters, and were slow in the granting of subsidies. The cardinal felt especially outraged by the interference of these bodies with the disbursement of the sums which they voted. It has been seen that the states had already compelled the government to withdraw the troops, much to the regret of Granvelle. They continued, however, to be intractable on the subject of supplies. “These are very vile things,” he wrote to Philip, “this authority which they assume, this audacity with which they say whatever they think proper, and these impudent conditions which they affix to every proposition for subsidies.” The cardinal protested that he had in vain attempted to convince them of their error, but that they remained perverse.
It was probably at this time that the plan for debasing the coin, suggested to Philip some time before by a skillful chemist named Malen, and always much approved of both by himself and Ruy Gomez, recurred to his mind. “Another and an extraordinary source of revenue, although perhaps not a very honorable one,’’ wrote Suriano, “has hitherto been kept secret, and on account of differences of opinion between the king and his confessor, has been discontinued.” This source of revenue, it seemed, was found in “a certain powder, of which one ounce mixed with six ounces of quicksilver would make six ounces of silver.” The composition was said to stand the test of the hammer, but not of the fire. Partly in consequence of theological scruples, and partly on account of opposition from the states, a project formed by the king to pay his army with this kind of silver was reluctantly abandoned. The invention, however, was so very agreeable to the king, and the inventor had received such liberal rewards, that it was supposed, according to the envoy, that in time of scarcity his Majesty would make use of such coin without reluctance.
It is necessary, before concluding this chapter, which relates the events of the years 1560 and 1561, to allude to an important affair which occupied much attention during the whole of this period. This is the celebrated marriage of the prince of Orange with the princess Anna of Saxony. By many superficial writers, a moving cause of the great Netherland revolt was found in the connection of the great chieftain with this distinguished Lutheran house. One must have studied the characters and the times to very little purpose, however, to believe it possible that much influence could be exerted on the mind of William of Orange by such natures as those of Anna of Saxony, or of her uncle the Elector Augustus, surnamed “the Pious.”
The prince had become a widower in 1558, at the age of twenty-five. Granvelle, who was said to have been influential in arranging his first marriage, now proposed to him, after the year of mourning had expired, an alliance with Mademoiselle Renée, daughter of the duchess de Lorraine, and granddaughter of Christiern III of Denmark, and his wife Isabella, sister of the Emperor Charles V. Such a connection, not only with the royal house of Spain but with that of France—for the young Duke of Lorraine, brother of the lady, had espoused the daughter of Henry II—was considered highly desirable by the prince. Philip and the Duchess Margaret of Parma both approved, or pretended to approve, the match. At the same time the Dowager Duchess of Lorraine, mother of the intended bride, was a candidate, and a very urgent one, for the regency of the Netherlands. Being a woman of restless ambition and intriguing character, she naturally saw in a man of William’s station and talents a most desirable ally in her present and future schemes. On the other hand, Philip—who had made open protestation of his desire to connect the prince thus closely with his own blood, and had warmly recommended the match to the young lady’s mother—soon afterwards, while walking one day with the prince in the park at Brussels, announced to him that the duchess of Lorraine had declined his proposals. Such a result astonished the prince, who was on the best of terms with the mother, and had been urging her appointment to the regency with all his influence, having entirely withdrawn his own claims to that office. No satisfactory explanation was ever given of this singular conclusion to a courtship, begun with the apparent consent of all parties. It was hinted that the young lady did not fancy the prince; but, as it was not known that a word had ever been exchanged between them, as the prince, in appearance and reputation, was one of the most brilliant cavaliers of the age, and as the approval of the bride was not usually a matter of primary consequence in such marriages of state, the mystery seemed to require a further solution. The prince suspected Granvelle and the king, who were believed to have held mature and secret deliberation together, of insincerity. The bishop was said to have expressed the opinion that, although the friendship he bore the prince would induce him to urge the marriage, yet his duty to his master made him think it questionable whether it were right to advance a personage already placed so high by birth, wealth, and popularity, still higher by so near an alliance with his Majesty’s family. The king, in consequence, secretly instructed the Duchess of Lorraine to decline the proposal, while at the same time he continued openly to advocate the connection.
The prince is said to have discovered this double dealing, and to have found in it the only reasonable explanation of the whole transaction. Moreover, the duchess of Lorraine, finding herself equally duped, and her own ambitious scheme equally foiled by her unscrupulous cousin—who now, to the surprise of every one, appointed Margaret of Parma to be regent, with the bishop for her prime minister—had as little reason to be satisfied with the combinations of royal and ecclesiastical intrigue as the Prince of Orange himself.
Soon after this unsatisfactory mystification, William turned his attentions to Germany. Anna of Saxony, daughter of the celebrated Elector Maurice, lived at the court of her uncle, the Elector Augustus. A musket ball, perhaps a traitorous one, in an obscure action with Albert of Brandenburg, had closed the adventurous career of her father seven years before. The young lady, who was thought to have inherited much of his restless, stormy character, was sixteen years of age. She was far from handsome, was somewhat deformed, and limped. Her marriage-portion was deemed, for the times, an ample one; she had seventy thousand rix dollars in hand, and the reversion of 30,000 on the death of John Frederic II, who had married her mother after the death of Maurice. Her rank was accounted far higher in Germany than that of William of Nassau, and in this respect, rather than for pecuniary considerations, the marriage seemed a desirable one for him. The man who held the great Nassau-Chalons property, together with the heritage of Count Maximilian de Buren, could hardly have been tempted by 100,000 thalers. His own provision for the children who might spring from the proposed marriage was to be a settlement of 70,000 florins annually. The fortune which permitted of such liberality was not one to be very materially increased by a dowry which might seem enormous to many of the pauper princes of Germany. “The bride’s portion,” says a contemporary, “after all, scarcely paid for the banquets and magnificent festivals which celebrated the marriage. When the wedding was paid for, there was not a thaler remaining of the whole sum.” Nothing, then, could be more puerile than to accuse the prince of mercenary motives in seeking this alliance—an accusation, however, which did not fail to be brought.
There were difficulties on both sides to be arranged before this marriage could take place. The bride was a Lutheran, the prince was a Catholic. With regard to the religion of Orange not the slightest doubt existed, nor was any deception attempted. Granvelle himself gave the most entire attestation of the prince’s orthodoxy. “This proposed marriage gives me great pain,” he wrote to Philip, “but I have never had reason to suspect his principles.” In another letter he observed that he wished the marriage could be broken off, but that he hoped so much from the virtue of the prince that nothing could suffice to separate him from the true religion. On the other side there was as little doubt as to his creed. Old Landgrave Philip of Hesse, grandfather of the young lady, was bitterly opposed to the match. “’Tis a papist,” said he, “who goes to mass, and eats no meat on fast days.” He had no great objection to his character, but insurmountable ones to his religion. “Old Count William,” said he, “was an evangelical lord to his dying day. This man is a papist.” The marriage, then, was to be a mixed marriage. It is necessary, however, to beware of anachronisms upon the subject. Lutherans were not yet formally denounced as heretics. On the contrary, it was exactly at this epoch that the pope was inviting the Protestant princes of Germany to the Trent Council, where the schism was to be closed, and all the erring lambs to be received again into the bosom of the fold. So far from manifesting an outward hostility, the papal demeanor was conciliating. The letters of invitation from the pope to the princes were sent by a legate, each commencing with the exordium, “To my beloved son,” and were all sent back to his Holiness, contemptuously, with the coarse jest for answer, “We believe our mothers to have been honest women, and hope that we had better fathers.” The great council had not yet given its decisions. Marriages were of continual occurrence, especially among princes and potentates, between the adherents of Rome and of the new religion. Even Philip had been most anxious to marry the Protestant Elizabeth, whom, had she been a peasant, he would unquestionably have burned, if in his power. Throughout Germany, also, especially in high places, there was a disposition to cover up the religious controversy; to abstain from disturbing the ashes where devastation still glowed, and was one day to rekindle itself. It was exceedingly difficult for any man, from the Archduke Maximilian down, to define his creed. A marriage, therefore, between a man and woman of discordant views upon this topic was not startling, although in general not considered desirable.
There were, however, especial reasons why this alliance should be distasteful, both to Philip of Spain upon one side, and to the Landgrave Philip of Hesse on the other. The bride was the daughter of the elector Maurice. In that one name were concentrated nearly all the disasters, disgrace, and disappointment of the Emperor’s reign. It was Maurice who had hunted the Emperor through the Tyrolean mountains; it was Maurice who had compelled the peace of Passau; it was Maurice who had overthrown the Catholic Church in Germany; it was Maurice who had frustrated Philip’s election as king of the Romans. If William of Orange must seek a wife among the pagans, could no other bride be found for him than the daughter of such a man?
Anna’s grandfather, on the other hand, Landgrave Philip, was the celebrated victim to the force and fraud of Charles V. He saw in the proposed bridegroom, a youth who had been from childhood, the petted page and confidant of the hated Emperor, to whom he owed his long imprisonment. He saw in him too, the intimate friend and ally—for the brooding quarrels of the state council were not yet patent to the world—of the still more deeply detested Granvelle, the crafty priest whose substitution of “einig” for “ewig” had inveigled him into that terrible captivity. These considerations alone would have made him unfriendly to the prince, even had he not been a Catholic.
The Elector Augustus, however, uncle and guardian to the bride, was not only well-disposed but eager for the marriage, and determined to overcome all obstacles, including the opposition of the Landgrave, without whose consent he was long pledged not to bestow the hand of Anna. For this there were more than one reason. Augustus, who, in the words of one of the most acute historical critics of our day, was “a Byzantine Emperor of the lowest class, re-appearing in electoral hat and mantle,” was not firm in his rights to the dignity he held. He had inherited from his brother, but his brother had dispossessed John Frederic. Maurice, when turning against the Emperor, who had placed him in his cousin’s seat, had not thought it expedient to restore to the rightful owner the rank which he himself owed to the violence of Charles. Those claims might be revindicated, and Augustus be degraded in his turn, by a possible marriage of the princess Anna, with some turbulent or intriguing German potentate. Out of the land she was less likely to give trouble. The alliance, if not particularly desirable on the score of rank, was, in other worldly respects, a most brilliant one for his niece. As for the religious point, if he could overcome or circumvent the scruples of the Landgrave, he foresaw little difficulty in conquering his own conscience.
The Prince of Orange, it is evident, was placed in such a position that it would be difficult for him to satisfy all parties. He intended that the marriage, like all marriages among persons in high places at that day, should be upon the “uti possidetis” principle, which was the foundation of the religious peace of Germany. His wife, after marriage and removal to the Netherlands, would “live Catholically”; she would be considered as belonging to the same Church with her husband, was to give no offense to the government, and bring no suspicion upon himself, by violating any of the religious decencies. Further than this, William, who at that day was an easy, indifferent Catholic, averse to papal persecutions, but almost equally averse to long, puritanical prayers and faces, taking far more pleasure in worldly matters than in ecclesiastical controversies, was not disposed to advance in this thorny path. Having a stern bigot to deal with in Madrid, and another in Cassel, he soon convinced himself that he was not likely entirely to satisfy either, and thought it wiser simply to satisfy himself.
Early in 1560, Count Gunther de Schwartzburg, betrothed to the prince’s sister Catherine, together with Colonel George von Holl, were dispatched to Germany to open the marriage negotiations. They found the Elector Augustus already ripe and anxious for the connection. It was easy for the envoys to satisfy all his requirements on the religious question. If, as the elector afterwards stated to the landgrave, they really promised that the young lady should be allowed to have an evangelical preacher in her own apartments, together with the befitting sacraments, it is very certain that they traveled a good way out of their instructions, for such concessions were steadily refused by William in person. It is, however, more probable that Augustus, whose slippery feet were disposed to slide smoothly and swiftly over this dangerous ground, had represented the prince’s communications under a favorable gloss of his own. At any rate, nothing in the subsequent proceedings justified the conclusions thus hastily formed.
The Landgrave Philip, from the beginning, manifested his repugnance to the match. As soon as the proposition had been received by Augustus, that potentate dispatched Hans von Carlowitz to the grandfather at Cassel. The Prince of Orange, it was represented, was young, handsome, wealthy, a favorite of the Spanish monarch; the princess Anna, on the other hand, said her uncle was not likely to grow straighter or better proportioned in body, nor was her crooked and perverse character likely to improve with years. It was therefore desirable to find a settlement for her as soon as possible. The elector, however, would decide upon nothing without the landgrave’s consent.
To this frank and not very flattering statement, so far as the young lady was concerned, the landgrave answered stoutly and characteristically. The prince was a Spanish subject, he said, and would not be able to protect Anna in her belief, who would sooner or later become a fugitive; he was but a count in Germany, and no fitting match for an elector’s daughter; moreover, the lady herself ought to be consulted, who had not even seen the prince. If she were crooked in body, as the elector stated, it was a shame to expose her; to conceal it, however, was questionable, as the prince might complain afterwards that a straight princess had been promised, and a crooked one fraudulently substituted, and so on, though a good deal more of such quaint casuistry, in which the landgrave was accomplished. The amount of his answer, however, to the marriage proposal was an unequivocal negative, from which he never wavered.
In consequence of this opposition, the negotiations were for a time suspended. Augustus implored the prince not to abandon the project, promising that every effort should be made to gain over the landgrave, hinting that the old man might “go to his long rest soon,” and even suggesting that if the worst came to the worst, he had bound himself to do nothing without the knowledge of the landgrave, but was not obliged to wait for his consent.
On the other hand, the prince had communicated to the King of Spain the fact of the proposed marriage. He had also held many long conversations with the regent and with Granvelle. In all these interviews he had uniformly used one language: his future wife was to “live as a Catholic,” and if that point were not conceded, he would break off the negotiations. He did not pretend that she was to abjure her Protestant faith. The duchess, in describing to Philip the conditions, as sketched to her by the prince, stated expressly that Augustus of Saxony was to consent that his niece “should live Catholically after the marriage,” but that it was quite improbable that “before the nuptials she would be permitted to abjure her errors, and receive necessary absolution, according to the rules of the Church.” The duchess, while stating her full confidence in the orthodoxy of the prince, expressed at the same time her fears that attempts might be made in the future by his new connections “to pervert him to their depraved opinions.”
A silence of many months ensued on the part of the sovereign, during which he was going through the laborious process of making up his mind, or rather of having it made up for him by people a thousand miles off. In the autumn Granvelle wrote to say that the prince was very much surprised to have been kept so long waiting for a definite reply to his communications, made at the beginning of the year concerning his intended marriage, and to learn at last that his Majesty had sent no answer, upon the ground that the match had been broken off, the fact being, that the negotiations were proceeding more earnestly than ever.
Nothing could be more helpless and more characteristic than the letter which Philip sent, thus pushed for a decision. “You wrote me,” said he, “that you had hopes that this matter of the prince’s marriage would go no further, and seeing that you did not write oftener on the subject, I thought certainly that it had been terminated. This pleased me not a little, because it was the best thing that could be done.” “Likewise,” continued the most tautological of monarchs, “I was much pleased that it should be done.” “Nevertheless,” he added, “if the marriage is to be proceeded with, I really don’t know what to say about it, except to refer it to my sister, inasmuch as a person being upon the spot can see better what can be done with regard to it; whether it be possible to prevent it, or whether it be best, if there be no remedy, to give permission. But if there be a remedy, it would be better to take it, because,” concluded the king, pathetically, “I don’t see how the prince could think of marrying with the daughter of the man who did to his majesty, now in glory, that which Duke Maurice did.”
Armed with this luminous epistle, which, if it meant anything, meant a reluctant affirmation to the demand of the prince for the royal consent, the regent and Granvelle proceeded to summon William of Orange, and to catechize him in a manner most galling to the pride, and with a latitude not at all justified by any reasonable interpretation of the royal instructions. They even informed him that his Majesty had assembled “certain persons learned in cases of conscience, and versed in theology,” according to whose advice a final decision, not yet possible, would be given at some future period. This assembly of learned conscience-keepers and theologians had no existence save in the imaginations of Granvelle and Margaret. The king’s letter, blind and blundering as it was, gave the duchess the right to decide in the affirmative on her own responsibility; yet fictions like these formed a part of the “dissimulation,” which was accounted profound statesmanship by the disciples of Machiavelli. The prince, however irritated, maintained his steadiness, assured the regent that the negotiation had advanced too far to be abandoned, and repeated his assurance that the future Princess of Orange was to “live as a Catholic.”
In December 1560, William made a visit to Dresden, where he was received by the elector with great cordiality. This visit was conclusive as to the marriage. The appearance and accomplishments of the distinguished suitor made a profound impression upon the lady. Her heart was carried by storm. Finding, or fancying herself very desperately enamored of the proposed bridegroom, she soon manifested as much eagerness for the marriage as did her uncle, and expressed herself frequently with the violence which belonged to her character. “What God had decreed,” she said, “the Devil should not hinder.”
The prince was said to have exhibited much diligence in his attention to the services of the Protestant Church during his visit at Dresden. As that visit lasted, however, but ten or eleven days, there was no great opportunity for showing much zeal.
At the same period one William Knuttel was dispatched by Orange on the forlorn hope of gaining the old landgrave’s consent, without making any vital concessions. “Will the prince,” asked the landgrave, “permit my granddaughter to have an evangelical preacher in the house?” “No,” answered Knuttel. “May she at least receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in her own chamber, according to the Lutheran form?” “No,” answered Knuttel, “neither in Breda, nor anywhere else in the Netherlands. If she imperatively requires such sacraments, she must go over the border for them, to the nearest Protestant sovereign.”
Upon the 14th of April, 1561, the elector, returning to the charge, caused a little note to be drawn up on the religious point, which he forwarded, in the hope that the prince would copy and sign it. He added a promise that the memorandum should never be made public to the signer’s disadvantage. At the same time he observed to Count Louis, verbally, “that he had been satisfied with the declarations made by the prince when in Dresden, upon all points, except that concerning religion.” He therefore felt obliged to beg for a little agreement in writing. “By no means! by no means!” interrupted Louis promptly, at the very first word, “the prince can give your electoral highness no such assurance. ’Twould be risking life, honor, and fortune to do so, as your grace is well aware.” The elector protested that the declaration, if signed, should never come into the Spanish monarch’s hands, and insisted upon sending it to the prince. Louis, in a letter to his brother, characterized the document as “singular, prolix, and artful,” and strongly advised the prince to have nothing to do with it.
This note, which the prince was thus requested to sign, and which his brother Louis thus strenuously advised him not to sign, the prince never did sign. Its tenor was to the following effect: the Princess, after marriage, was, neither by menace nor persuasion, to be turned from the true and pure Word of God, or the use of the sacrament according to the doctrines of the Augsburg Confession. The prince was to allow her to read books written in accordance with the Augsburg Confession. The prince was to permit her, as often, annually, as she required it, to go out of the Netherlands to some place where she could receive the sacrament according to the Augsburg Confession. In case she were in sickness or perils of childbirth, the prince, if necessary, would call to her an evangelical preacher, who might administer to her the holy sacrament in her chamber. The children who might spring from the marriage were to be instructed as to the doctrines of the Augsburg Confession.
Even if executed, this celebrated memorandum would hardly have been at variance with the declarations made by the prince to the Spanish government. He had never pretended that his bride was to become a Catholic, but only to live as a Catholic. All that he had promised, or was expected to promise was that his wife should conform to the law in the Netherlands. The paper, in a general way, recognized that law. In case of absolute necessity, however, it was stipulated that the princess should have the advantage of private sacraments. This certainly would have been a mortal offense in a Calvinist or Anabaptist, but for Lutherans the practice had never been so strict. Moreover, the prince already repudiated the doctrines of the edicts, and rebelled against the command to administer them within his government. A general promise, therefore, made by him privately, in the sense of the memorandum drawn up by the elector, would have been neither hypocritical nor deceitful, but worthy the man who looked over such groveling heads as Granvelle and Philip on the one side, or Augustus of Saxony on the other, and estimated their religious pretences at exactly what they were worth. A formal document, however, technically according all these demands made by the elector, would certainly be regarded by the Spanish government as a very culpable instrument. The prince never signed the note, but, as we shall have occasion to state in its proper place, he gave a verbal declaration, favorable to its tenor, but in very vague and brief terms, before a notary, on the day of the marriage.
If the reader be of opinion that too much time has been expended upon the elucidation of this point, he should remember that the character of a great and good man is too precious a possession of history to be lightly abandoned. It is of no great consequence to ascertain the precise creed of Augustus of Saxony, or of his niece; it is of comparatively little moment to fix the point at which William of Orange ceased to be an honest, but liberal Catholic, and opened his heart to the light of the Reformation; but it is of very grave interest that his name should be cleared of the charge of deliberate fraud and hypocrisy. It has therefore been thought necessary to prove conclusively that the prince never gave, in Dresden or Cassel, any assurance inconsistent with his assertions to king and cardinal. The whole tone of his language and demeanor on the religious subject was exhibited in his reply to the electress, who, immediately after the marriage, entreated that he would not pervert her niece from the paths of the true religion. “She shall not be troubled,” said the prince, “with such melancholy things. Instead of holy writ she shall read ‘Amadis de Gaule,’ and such books of pastime which discourse de amore; and instead of knitting and sewing she shall learn to dance a galliarde, and such courtoisies as are the mode of our country and suitable to her rank.”
The reply was careless, flippant, almost contemptuous. It is very certain that William of Orange was not yet the “father William” he was destined to become—grave, self-sacrificing, deeply religious, heroic—but it was equally evident from this language that he had small sympathy, either in public or private, with Lutheranism or theological controversy. Landgrave William was not far from right when he added, in his quaint style, after recalling this well-known reply, “Your grace will observe, therefore, that when the abbot has dice in his pocket, the convent will play.”
So great was the excitement at the little court of Cassel, that many Protestant princes and nobles declared that “they would sooner give their daughters to a boor or a swineherd than to a papist.” The landgrave was equally vigorous in his protest, drawn up in due form on the 26th of April, 1561. He was not used, he said, “to flatter or to tickle with a foxtail.” He was sorry if his language gave offense, nevertheless “the marriage was odious, and that was enough.” He had no especial objection to the prince, “who before the world was a brave and honorable man.” He conceded that his estates were large, although he hinted that his debts also were ample; allowed that he lived in magnificent style; had even heard “of one of his banquets, where all the tablecloths, plates, and every thing else, were made of sugar”; but thought he might be even a little too extravagant; concluding, after a good deal of skimble-skamble of this nature, with “protesting before God, the world, and all pious Christians, that he was not responsible for the marriage, but only the Elector Augustus and others, who therefore would one day have to render account thereof to the Lord.” Meantime the wedding had been fixed to take place on Sunday, the 24th of August, 1561. This was St. Bartholomew’s, a nuptial day which was not destined to be a happy one in the 16th century. The landgrave and his family declined to be present at the wedding, but a large and brilliant company were invited. The King of Spain sent a bill of exchange to the regent, that she might purchase a ring worth three thousand crowns, as a present on his part to the bride. Beside this liberal evidence that his opposition to the marriage was withdrawn, he authorized his sister to appoint envoys from among the most distinguished nobles to represent him on the occasion. The Baron de Montigny, accordingly, with a brilliant company of gentlemen, was deputed by the duchess, although she declined sending all the governors of the provinces, according to the request of the prince. The marriage was to take place at Leipsic. A slight picture of the wedding festivities, derived entirely from unpublished sources, may give some insight into the manners and customs of high life in Germany and the Netherlands at this epoch.
The Kings of Spain and Denmark were invited, and were represented by special ambassadors. The Dukes of Brunswick, Lauenburg, Mecklenburg, the Elector and Margraves of Brandenburg, the Archbishop of Cologne, the Duke of Cleves, the Bishops of Naumburg, Meneburg, Meissen, with many other potentates, accepted the invitations, and came generally in person, a few only being represented by envoy. The town councils of Erfurt, Leipsic, Magdeburg, and other cities, were also bidden. The bridegroom was personally accompanied by his brothers John, Adolphus, and Louis; by the Buren’s, the Leuchtenberg’s, and various other distinguished personages.
As the electoral residence at Leipsic was not completely finished, separate dwellings were arranged for each of the sovereign families invited, in private houses, mostly on the marketplace. Here they were to be furnished with provisions by the elector’s officials, but they were to cook for themselves. For this purpose all the princes had been requested to bring their own cooks and butlers, together with their plate and kitchen utensils. The sovereigns themselves were to dine daily with the elector at the town-house, but the attendants and suite were to take their meals in their own lodgings. A brilliant collection of gentlemen and pages, appointed by the elector to wait at his table, were ordered to assemble at Leipsic on the 22nd, the guests having been all invited for the 23rd. Many regulations were given to these noble youths, that they might discharge their duties with befitting decorum. Among other orders, they received particular injunctions that they were to abstain from all drinking among themselves, and from all riotous conduct whatever, while the sovereigns and potentates should be at dinner. “It would be a shameful indecency,” it was urged, “if the great people sitting at table should be unable to hear themselves talk on account of the screaming of the attendants.” This provision did not seem unreasonable. They were also instructed that if invited to drink by any personage at the great tables they were respectfully to decline the challenge, and to explain the cause after the repast.
Particular arrangements were also made for the safety of the city. Besides the regular guard of Leipsic, two hundred and twenty arquebuseers, spearmen, and halberdmen were ordered from the neighboring towns. These were to be all dressed in uniform—one arm, side, and leg in black, and the other in yellow, according to a painting distributed beforehand to the various authorities. As a mounted patrol, Leipsic had a regular force of two men. These were now increased to ten, and received orders to ride with their lanterns up and down all the streets and lanes, to accost all persons whom they might find abroad without lights in their hands, to ask them their business in courteous language, and at the same time to see generally to the peace and safety of the town. Fifty arquebuseers were appointed to protect the town-house, and a burgher watch of six hundred was distributed in different quarters, especially to guard against fire.
On Saturday, the day before the wedding, the guests had all arrived at Leipsic, and the prince of Orange, with his friends, at Meneburg. On Sunday, the 24th of August, the elector at the head of his guests and attendants, in splendid array, rode forth to receive the bridegroom. His cavalcade numbered four thousand. William of Orange had arrived, accompanied by one thousand mounted men. The whole troop now entered the city together, escorting the prince to the town-house. Here he dismounted, and was received on the staircase by the princess Anna, attended by her ladies. She immediately afterwards withdrew to her apartments.
It was at this point, between 4 and 5 p.m., that the elector and electress, with the bride and bridegroom, accompanied also by the Dame Sophia von Miltitz and the Councillors Hans von Ponika and Ubrich Woltersdorff upon one side, and by Count John of Nassau and Heinrich von Wiltberg upon the other, as witnesses, appeared before Wolf Seidel, notary, in a corner room of the upper story of the town-house. One of the councillors, on the part of the elector, then addressed the bridegroom. He observed that his highness would remember, no doubt, the contents of a memorandum or billet, sent by the elector on the 14th of April of that year, by the terms of which the prince was to agree that he would, neither by threat nor persuasion, prevent his future wife from continuing in the Augsburg Confession; that he would allow her to go to places where she might receive the Augsburg sacraments; that in case of extreme need she should receive them in her chamber; and that the children who might spring from the marriage should be instructed as to the Augsburg doctrines. As, however, continued the councillor, his highness the Prince of Orange has, for various reasons, declined giving any such agreement in writing, as therefore it had been arranged that before the marriage ceremony the prince should, in the presence of the bride and of the other witnesses, make a verbal promise on the subject, and as the parties were now to be immediately united in marriage, therefore the elector had no doubt that the prince would make no objection in presence of those witnesses to give his consent to maintain the agreements comprised in the memorandum or note. The note was then read. Thereupon, the prince answered verbally. “Gracious elector, I remember the writing which you sent me on the 14th April. All the points just narrated by the doctor were contained in it. I now state to your highness that I will keep it all as becomes a prince, and conform to it.” Thereupon he gave the elector his hand.
What now was the amount and meaning of this promise on the part of the prince? Almost nothing. He would conform to the demands of the elector, exactly as he had hitherto said he would conform to them. Taken in connection with his steady objections to sign and seal any instrument on the subject; with his distinct refusal to the landgrave (through Knuttel) to allow the princess an evangelical preacher or to receive the sacraments in the Netherlands; with the vehement, formal, and public protest, on the part of the landgrave, against the marriage; with the prince’s declarations to the Elector at Dresden, which were satisfactory on all points save the religious point; what meaning could this verbal promise have, save that the prince would do exactly as much with regard to the religious question as he had always promised, and no more? This was precisely what did happen. There was no pretense on the part of the elector, afterwards, that any other arrangement had been contemplated. The princess lived catholically from the moment of her marriage, exactly as Orange had stated to the Duchess Margaret, and as the elector knew would be the case. The first and the following children born of the marriage were baptized by Catholic priests, with very elaborate Catholic ceremonies, and this with the full consent of the elector, who sent deputies and officiated as sponsor on one remarkable occasion.
Who, of all those guileless lambs then—Philip of Spain, the Elector of Saxony, or Cardinal Granvelle—had been deceived by the language or actions of the prince? Not one. It may be boldly asserted that the prince, placed in a transition epoch, both of the age and of his own character, surrounded by the most artful and intriguing personages known to history, and involved in a network of most intricate and difficult circumstances, acquitted himself in a manner as honorable as it was prudent. It is difficult to regard the notarial instrument otherwise than as a memorandum, filed rather by Augustus than by wise William, in order to put upon record for his own justification, his repeated though unsuccessful efforts to procure from the prince a regularly signed, sealed, and holographic act, upon the points stated in the famous note.
After the delay occasioned by these private formalities, the bridal procession, headed by the court musicians, followed by the court marshals, councillors, great officers of state, and the electoral family, entered the grand hall of the town-house. The nuptial ceremony was then performed by “the Superintendent Doctor Pfeffinger.” Immediately afterwards, and in the same hall, the bride and bridegroom were placed publicly upon a splendid, gilded bed, with gold-embroidered curtains, the princess being conducted thither by the elector and electress. Confects and spiced drinks were then served to them and to the assembled company. After this ceremony they were conducted to their separate chambers, to dress for dinner. Before they left the hall, however, Margrave Hans of Brandenburg, on part of the Elector of Saxony, solemnly recommended the bride to her husband, exhorting him to cherish her with faith and affection, and “to leave her undisturbed in the recognized truth of the holy gospel and the right use of the sacraments.”
Five round tables were laid in the same hall immediately afterwards, each accommodating ten guests. As soon as the first course of twenty-five dishes had been put upon the chief table, the bride and bridegroom, the elector and electress, the Spanish and Danish envoys and others, were escorted to it, and the banquet began. During the repast, the elector’s choir and all the other bands discoursed the “merriest and most ingenious music.” The noble vassals handed the water, the napkins, and the wine, and everything was conducted decorously and appropriately. As soon as the dinner was brought to a close, the tables were cleared away, and the ball began in the same apartment. Dances, previously arranged, were performed, after which “confects and drinks” were again distributed, and the bridal pair were then conducted to the nuptial chamber.
The wedding, according to the Lutheran custom of the epoch, had thus taken place not in a church, but in a private dwelling, the hall of the town-house, representing, on this occasion, the elector’s own saloons. On the following morning, however, a procession was formed at seven o’clock to conduct the newly-married couple to the church of St. Nicholas, there to receive an additional exhortation and benediction. Two separate companies of gentlemen, attended by a great number of “fifers, drummers, and trumpeters,” escorted the bride and the bridegroom, “twelve counts, wearing each a scarf of the princess Anna’s colors, with golden garlands on their heads and lighted torches in their hands,” preceding her to the choir, where seats had been provided for the more illustrious portion of the company. The church had been magnificently decked in tapestry, and, as the company entered, a full orchestra performed several fine motettos. After listening to a long address from Dr. Pfeffinger, and receiving a blessing before the altar, the Prince and Princess of Orange returned, with their attendant processions, to the town-house.
After dinner, upon the same and the three following days, a tournament was held. The lists were on the marketplace, on the side nearest the town-house; the electress and the other ladies looking down from balcony and window to “rain influence and adjudge the prize.” The chief hero of these jousts, according to the accounts in the Archives, was the Elector of Saxony. He “comported himself with such especial chivalry” that his far-famed namesake and remote successor, Augustus the Strong, could hardly have evinced more knightly prowess. On the first day he encountered George von Wiedebach, and unhorsed him so handsomely that the discomfited cavalier’s shoulder was dislocated. On the following day he tilted with Michael von Denstedt, and was again victorious, hitting his adversary full in the target, and “bearing him off over his horse’s tail so neatly, that the knight came down, heels over head, upon the earth.”
On Wednesday, there was what was called the pallia-tourney. The Prince of Orange, at the head of six bands, amounting in all to twenty-nine men; the Margrave George of Brandenburg, with seven bands, comprising thirty-four men, and the Elector Augustus, with one band of four men, besides himself, all entered the lists. Lots were drawn for the “gate of honor,” and gained by the margrave, who accordingly defended it with his band. Twenty courses were then run between these champions and the Prince of Orange, with his men. The Brandenburg’s broke seven lances, the prince’s party only six, so that Orange was obliged to leave the lists discomfited. The ever-victorious Augustus then took the field, and ran twenty courses against the defenders, breaking fourteen spears to the Brandenburgs’ ten. The margrave, thus defeated, surrendered the “gate of honor” to the elector, who maintained it the rest of the day against all comers. It is fair to suppose, although the fact is not recorded, that the elector’s original band had received some reinforcement. Otherwise, it would be difficult to account for these constant victories, except by ascribing more than mortal strength, as well as valor, to Augustus and his four champions. His party broke one hundred and fifty-six lances, of which number the elector himself broke thirty-eight and a half. He received the first prize, but declined other guerdons adjudged to him. The reward for the hardest hitting was conferred on Wolf von Schönberg, “who thrust Kurt von Arnim clean out of the saddle, so that he fell against the barriers.”
On Thursday was the riding at the ring. The knights who partook of this sport wore various strange garbs over their armor. Some were disguised as hussars, some as miners, some as lansquenettes; others as Tartans, pilgrims, fools, bird-catchers, hunters, monks, peasants, or Netherland cuirassiers. Each party was attended by a party of musicians, attired in similar costume. Moreover, Count Gunter von Schwartzburg made his appearance in the lists, accompanied “by five remarkable giants of wonderful proportions and appearance, very ludicrous to behold, who performed all kind of odd antics on horseback.”
The next day there was a foot tourney, followed in the evening by “mummeries,” or masquerades. These masques were repeated on the following evening, and afforded great entertainment. The costumes were magnificent, “with golden and pearl embroidery,” the dances were very merry and artistic, and the musicians, who formed a part of the company, exhibited remarkable talent. These “mummeries” had been brought by William of Orange from the Netherlands, at the express request of the elector, on the ground that such matters were much better understood in the provinces than in Germany.
Such is a slight sketch of the revels by which this ill-fated Bartholomew marriage was celebrated. While William of Orange was thus employed in Germany, Granvelle seized the opportunity to make his entry into the city of Mechlin, as archbishop, believing that such a step would be better accomplished in the absence of the prince from the country. The cardinal found no one in the city to welcome him. None of the great nobles were there. The people looked upon the procession with silent hatred. No man cried, God bless him. He wrote to the king that he should push forward the whole matter of the bishoprics as fast as possible, adding the ridiculous assertion that the opposition came entirely from the nobility, and that “if the seigniors did not talk so much, not a man of the people would open his mouth on the subject.”
The remonstrance offered by the three estates of Brabant against the scheme had not influenced Philip. He had replied in a peremptory tone. He had assured them that he had no intention of receding, and that the province of Brabant ought to feel itself indebted to him for having given them prelates instead of abbots to take care of their eternal interests, and for having erected their religious houses into episcopates. The abbeys made what resistance they could, but were soon fain to come to a compromise with the bishops, who, according to the arrangement thus made, were to receive a certain portion of the abbey revenues, while the remainder was to belong to the institutions, together with a continuance of their right to elect their own chiefs, subordinate, however, to the approbation of the respective prelates of the diocese. Thus was the episcopal matter settled in Brabant. In many of the other bishoprics the new dignitaries were treated with disrespect, as they made their entrance into their cities, while they experienced endless opposition and annoyance on attempting to take possession of the revenue assigned to them.
The great cause of the revolt which, within a few years, was to break forth throughout the Netherlands, was the inquisition. It is almost puerile to look further or deeper, when such a source of convulsion lies at the very outset of any investigation. During the war there had been, for reasons already indicated, an occasional pause in the religious persecution. Philip had now returned to Spain, having arranged, with great precision, a comprehensive scheme for exterminating that religious belief which was already accepted by a very large portion of his Netherland subjects. From afar there rose upon the provinces the prophetic vision of a coming evil still more terrible than any which had yet oppressed them. As across the bright plains of Sicily, when the sun is rising, the vast pyramidal shadow of Mount Etna is definitely and visibly projected—the phantom of that ever-present enemy, which holds fire and devastation in its bosom—so, in the morning hour of Philip’s reign, the shadow of the inquisition was cast from afar across those warm and smiling provinces—a specter menacing fiercer flames and wider desolation than those which mere physical agencies could ever compass.
There has been a good deal of somewhat superfluous discussion concerning the different kinds of inquisition. The distinction drawn between the papal, the episcopal, and the Spanish inquisitions, did not, in the 16th century, convince many unsophisticated minds of the merits of the establishment in any of its shapes. However classified or entitled, it was a machine for inquiring into a man’s thoughts, and for burning him if the result was not satisfactory.
The Spanish inquisition, strictly so called, that is to say, the modern or later institution established by Pope Alexander VI and Ferdinand the Catholic, was doubtless invested with a more complete apparatus for inflicting human misery, and for appalling human imagination, than any of the other less artfully arranged inquisitions, whether papal or episcopal. It had been originally devised for Jews or Moors, whom the Christianity of the age did not regard as human beings, but who could not be banished without depopulating certain districts. It was soon, however, extended from pagans to heretics. The Dominican Torquemada was the first Moloch to be placed upon this pedestal of blood and fire, and from that day forward the “holy office” was almost exclusively in the hands of that band of brothers. In the eighteen years of Torquemada’s administration, 10,220 individuals were burned alive, and 97,321 punished with infamy, confiscation of property, or perpetual imprisonment, so that the total number of families destroyed by this one friar alone amounted to 114,401.
In course of time the jurisdiction of the office was extended. It taught the savages of India and America to shudder at the name of Christianity. The fear of its introduction froze the earlier heretics of Italy, France, and Germany into orthodoxy. It was a court owning allegiance to no temporal authority, superior to all other tribunals. It was a bench of monks without appeal, having its familiars in every house, diving into the secrets of every fireside, judging and executing its horrible decrees without responsibility. It condemned not deeds, but thoughts. It affected to descend into individual conscience, and to punish the crimes which it pretended to discover. Its process was reduced to a horrible simplicity. It arrested on suspicion, tortured till confession, and then punished by fire.
Two witnesses, and those to separate facts, were sufficient to consign the victim to a loathsome dungeon. Here he was sparingly supplied with food, forbidden to speak, or even to sing—to which pastime it could hardly be thought he would feel much inclination—and then left to himself, till famine and misery should break his spirit. When that time was supposed to have arrived he was examined. Did he confess, and forswear his heresy, whether actually innocent or not, he might then assume the sacred shirt, and escape with confiscation of all his property. Did he persist in the avowal of his innocence, two witnesses sent him to the stake, one witness to the rack. He was informed of the testimony against him, but never confronted with the witness. That accuser might be his son, father, or the wife of his bosom, for all were enjoined, under the death penalty, to inform the inquisitors of every suspicious word which might fall from their nearest relatives. The indictment being thus supported, the prisoner was tried by torture. The rack was the court of justice; the criminal’s only advocate was his fortitude, for the nominal counsellor, who was permitted no communication with the prisoner, and was furnished neither with documents nor with power to procure evidence, was a puppet, aggravating the lawlessness of the proceedings by the mockery of legal forms.
The torture took place at midnight, in a gloomy dungeon, dimly lighted by torches. The victim—whether man, matron, or tender virgin—was stripped naked, and stretched upon the wooden bench. Water, weights, fires, pulleys, screws—all the apparatus by which the sinews could be strained without cracking, the bones crushed without breaking, and the body racked exquisitely without giving up its ghost—were now put into operation. The executioner, enveloped in a black robe from head to foot, with his eyes glaring at his victim through holes cut in the hood which muffled his face, practiced successively all the forms of torture which the devilish ingenuity of the monks had invented. The imagination sickens when striving to keep pace with these dreadful realities. Those who wish to indulge their curiosity concerning the details of the system, may easily satisfy themselves at the present day. The flood of light which has been poured upon the subject more than justifies the horror and the rebellion of the Netherlanders.
The period during which torture might be inflicted from day to day was unlimited in duration. It could only be terminated by confession—so that the scaffold was the sole refuge from the rack. Individuals have borne the torture and the dungeon fifteen years, and have been burned at the stake at last.
Execution followed confession, but the number of condemned prisoners was allowed to accumulate, that a multitude of victims might grace each great gala-day. The auto-da-fé was a solemn festival. The monarch, the high functionaries of the land, the reverend clergy, the populace regarded it as an inspiring and delightful recreation. When the appointed morning arrived, the victim was taken from his dungeon. He was then attired in a yellow robe without sleeves, like a herald’s coat, embroidered all over with black figures of devils. A large conical paper miter was placed upon his head, upon which was represented a human being in the midst of flames, surrounded by imps. His tongue was then painfully gagged, so that he could neither open nor shut his mouth. After he was thus accoutered, and just as he was leaving his cell, a breakfast, consisting of every delicacy, was placed before him, and he was urged, with ironical politeness, to satisfy his hunger. He was then led forth into the public square. The procession was formed with great pomp. It was headed by the little school children, who were immediately followed by the band of prisoners, each attired in the horrible yet ludicrous manner described. Then came the magistrates and nobility, the prelates and other dignitaries of the Church; the holy inquisitors, with their officials and familiars, followed, all on horseback, with the blood-red flag of the “sacred office” waving above them, blazoned upon either side with the portraits of Alexander and of Ferdinand, the pair of brothers who had established the institution. After the procession came the rabble.
When all had reached the neighborhood of the scaffold, and had been arranged in order, a sermon was preached to the assembled multitude. It was filled with laudations of the inquisition, and with blasphemous revilings against the condemned prisoners. Then the sentences were read to the individual victims. Then the clergy chanted the fifty-first psalm, the whole vast throng uniting in one tremendous miserere. If a priest happened to be among the culprits, he was now stripped of the canonicals which he had hitherto worn, while his hands, lips, and shaven crown were scraped with a bit of glass, by which process the oil of his consecration was supposed to be removed. He was then thrown into the common herd. Those of the prisoners who were reconciled, and those whose execution was not yet appointed, were now separated from the others. The rest were compelled to mount a scaffold, where the executioner stood ready to conduct them to the fire. The inquisitors then delivered them into his hands, with an ironical request that he would deal with them tenderly, and without blood-letting or injury. Those who remained steadfast to the last were then burned at the stake; they who in the last extremity renounced their faith were strangled before being thrown into the flames.
Such was the Spanish inquisition, technically so called. It was, according to the biographer of Philip II, a “heavenly remedy, a guardian angel of Paradise, a lions’ den in which Daniel and other just men could sustain no injury, but in which perverse sinners were torn to pieces. It was a tribunal superior to all human law, without appeal, and certainly owing no allegiance to the powers of earth or heaven. No rank, high or humble, was safe from its jurisdiction. The royal family were not sacred, nor the pauper’s hovel. Even death afforded no protection. The holy office invaded the prince in his palace and the beggar in his shroud. The corpses of dead heretics were mutilated and burned. The inquisitors preyed upon carcasses and rifled graves. A gorgeous festival of the holy office had, as we have seen, welcomed Philip to his native land. The news of these tremendous autos-da-fé, in which so many illustrious victims had been sacrificed before their sovereign’s eyes, had reached the Netherlands almost simultaneously with the bulls creating the new bishoprics in the provinces. It was not likely that the measure would be rendered more palatable by this intelligence of the royal amusements.
The Spanish inquisition had never flourished in any soil but that of the peninsula. It is possible that the king and Granvelle were sincere in their protestations of entertaining no intention of introducing it into the Netherlands, although the protestations of such men are entitled to but little weight. The truth was that the inquisition existed already in the provinces. It was the main object of the government to confirm and extend the institution. The episcopal inquisition, as we have already seen, had been enlarged by the enormous increase in the number of bishops, each of whom was to be head inquisitor in his diocese, with two special inquisitors under him. With this apparatus and with the edicts, as already described, it might seem that enough had already been done for the suppression of heresy. But more had been done. A regular papal inquisition also existed in the Netherlands. This establishment, like the edicts, was the gift of Charles V. A word of introduction is here again necessary—nor let the reader deem that too much time is devoted to this painful subject. On the contrary, no definite idea can be formed as to the character of the Netherland revolt without a thorough understanding of this great cause—the religious persecution in which the country had lived, breathed, and had its being, for half a century, and in which, had the rebellion not broken out at last, the population must have been either exterminated or entirely imbruted. The few years which are immediately to occupy us in the present and succeeding chapter, present the country in a daily increasing ferment from the action of causes which had existed long before, but which received an additional stimulus as the policy of the new reign developed itself.
Previously to the accession of Charles V, it can not be said that an inquisition had ever been established in the provinces. Isolated instances to the contrary, adduced by the canonists who gave their advice to Margaret of Parma, rather proved the absence than the existence of the system. In the reign of Philip the Good, the vicar of the inquisitor-general gave sentence against some heretics, who were burned in Lille (1448). In 1459, Pierre Troussart, a Jacobin monk, condemned many Waldenses, together with some leading citizens of Artois, accused of sorcery and heresy. He did this, however, as inquisitor for the Bishop of Arras, so that it was an act of episcopal, and not papal inquisition. In general, when inquisitors were wanted in the provinces, it was necessary to borrow them from France or Germany. The exigencies of persecution making a domestic staff desirable, Charles V, in the year 1522, applied to his ancient tutor, whom he had placed on the papal throne.
Charles had, however, already, in the previous year appointed Francis Van der Hulst to be inquisitor-general for the Netherlands. This man, whom Erasmus called a “wonderful enemy to learning,” was also provided with a coadjutor, Nicholas of Egmond by name, a Carmelite monk, who was characterized by the same authority as “a madman armed with a sword.” The inquisitor-general received full powers to cite, arrest, imprison, torture heretics without observing the ordinary forms of law, and to cause his sentences to be executed without appeal. He was, however, in pronouncing definite judgments, to take the advice of Laurens, president of the grand council of Mechlin, a coarse, cruel, and ignorant man, who “hated learning with a more than deadly hatred,” and who might certainly be relied upon to sustain the severest judgments which the inquisitor might fulminate. Adrian, accordingly, commissioned Van der Hulst to be universal and general inquisitor for all the Netherlands. At the same time it was expressly stated that his functions were not to supersede those exercised by the bishops as inquisitors in their own sees. Thus the papal inquisition was established in the provinces.
Van der Hulst, a person of infamous character, was not the man to render the institution less odious than it was by its nature. Before he had fulfilled his duties two years, however, he was degraded from his office by the Emperor for having forged a document. In 1525, Buedens, Houseau and Coppin were confirmed by Clement VII as inquisitors in the room of Van der Hulst. In 1537, Ruard Tapper and Michael Drutius were appointed by Paul III, on the decease of Coppin, the other two remaining in office. The powers of the papal inquisitors had been gradually extended, and they were, by 1545, not only entirely independent of the episcopal inquisition, but had acquired right of jurisdiction over bishops and archbishops, whom they were empowered to arrest and imprison. They had also received and exercised the privilege of appointing delegates, or sub-inquisitors, on their own authority. Much of the work was, indeed, performed by these officials, the most notorious of whom were Barbier, De Monte, Titelmann, Fabry, Campo de Zon, and Stryen. In 1545, and again in 1550, a stringent set of instructions were drawn up by the Emperor for the guidance of these papal inquisitors. A glance at their context shows that the establishment was not intended to be an empty form.
They were empowered to inquire, proceed against, and chastise all heretics, all persons suspected of heresy, and their protectors. Accompanied by a notary, they were to collect written information concerning every person in the provinces, “infected or vehemently suspected.” They were authorized to summon all subjects of his Majesty, whatever their rank, quality, or station, and to compel them to give evidence, or to communicate suspicions. They were to punish all who pertinaciously refused such depositions with death. The Emperor commanded his presidents, judges, sheriffs, and all other judicial and executive officers to render all “assistance to the inquisitors and their familiars in their holy and pious inquisition, whenever required so to do,” on pain of being punished as encouragers of heresy, that is to say, with death.
Whenever the inquisitors should be satisfied as to the heresy of any individual, they were to order his arrest and detention by the judge of the place, or by others arbitrarily to be selected by them. The judges or persons thus chosen were enjoined to fulfil the order, on pain of being punished as protectors of heresy, that is to say, with death, by sword or fire. If the prisoner were an ecclesiastic, the inquisitor was to deal summarily with the case “without noise or form in the process—selecting an imperial councillor to render the sentence of absolution or condemnation.” If the prisoner were a lay person, the inquisitor was to order his punishment, according to the edicts, by the council of the province. In case of lay persons suspected but not convicted of heresy, the inquisitor was to proceed to their chastisement, “with the advice of a counsellor or some other expert.”
In conclusion, the Emperor ordered the “inquisitors to make it known that they were not doing their own work, but that of Christ, and to persuade all persons of this fact.” This clause of their instructions seemed difficult of accomplishment, for no reasonable person could doubt that Christ, had he re-appeared in human form, would have been instantly crucified again, or burned alive in any place within the dominions of Charles or Philip. The blasphemy with which the name of Jesus was used by such men to sanctify all these nameless horrors, is certainly not the least of their crimes.
In addition to these instructions, a special edict had been issued on the 26th of April, 1550, according to which all judicial officers, at the requisition of the inquisitors, were to render them all assistance in the execution of their office, by arresting and detaining all persons suspected of heresy, according to the instructions issued to said inquisitors; and this, notwithstanding any privileges or charters to the contrary. In short, the inquisitors were not subject to the civil authority, but the civil authority to them. The imperial edict empowered them “to chastise, degrade, denounce, and deliver over heretics to the secular judges for punishment; to make use of gaols, and to make arrests, without ordinary warrant, but merely with notice given to a single counsellor, who was obliged to give sentence according to their desire, without application to the ordinary judge.”
These instructions to the inquisitors had been renewed and confirmed by Philip, in the very first month of his reign (November 28, 1555). As in the case of the edicts, it had been thought desirable by Granvelle to make use of the supposed magic of the Emperor’s name to hallow the whole machinery of persecution. The action of the system during the greater part of the imperial period had been terrible. Suffered for a time to languish during the French war, it had lately been renewed with additional vigor. Among all the inquisitors, the name of Peter Titelmann was now preeminent. He executed his infamous functions throughout Flanders, Douay, and Tournay, the most thriving and populous portions of the Netherlands, with a swiftness, precision, and even with a jocularity which hardly seemed human. There was a kind of grim humor about the man. The woman who, according to Lear’s fool was wont to thrust her live eels into the hot paste, “rapping them o’ the coxcombs with a stick and crying reproachfully, ‘Wantons, lie down!’” had the spirit of a true inquisitor. Even so dealt Titelmann with his heretics writhing on the rack or in the flames. Cotemporary chronicles give a picture of him as of some grotesque yet terrible goblin, careering through the country by night or clay, alone, on horseback, smiting the trembling peasants on the head with a great club, spreading dismay far and wide, dragging suspected persons from their firesides or their beds, and thrusting them into dungeons, arresting, torturing, strangling, burning, with hardly the shadow of warrant, information, or process.
The secular sheriff, familiarly called Red-Rod, from the color of his wand of office, meeting this inquisitor Titelmann one day upon the high road, thus wonderingly addressed him, “How can you venture to go about alone, or at most with an attendant or two, arresting people on every side, while I dare not attempt to execute my office, except at the head of a strong force, armed in proof, and then only at the peril of my life?”
“Ah! Red-Rod,” answered Peter, jocosely, “you deal with bad people. I have nothing to fear, for I seize only the innocent and virtuous, who make no resistance, and let themselves be taken like lambs.”
“Mighty well,” said the other, “but if you arrest all the good people and I all the bad, ’tis difficult to say who in the world is to escape chastisement.” The reply of the inquisitor has not been recorded, but there is no doubt that he proceeded like a strong man to run his day’s course.
He was the most active of all the agents in the religious persecution at the epoch of which we are now treating, but he had been inquisitor for many years. The martyrology of the provinces reeks with his murders. He burned men for idle words or suspected thoughts; he rarely waited, according to his frank confession, for deeds. Hearing once that a certain schoolmaster, named Geleyn de Muler, of Audenarde, “was addicted to reading the Bible,” he summoned the culprit before him and accused him of heresy. The schoolmaster claimed, if he were guilty of any crime, to be tried before the judges of his town. “You are my prisoner,” said Titelmann, “and are to answer me and none other.” The inquisitor proceeded accordingly to catechize him, and soon satisfied himself of the schoolmaster’s heresy. He commanded him to make immediate recantation. The schoolmaster refused. “Do you not love your wife and children?” asked the demoniac Titelmann. “God knows,” answered the heretic, “that if the whole world were of gold, and my own, I would give it all only to have them with me, even had I to live on bread and water and in bondage.” “You have then,” answered the inquisitor, “only to renounce the error of your opinions.” “Neither for wife, children, nor all the world, can I renounce my God and religious truth,” answered the prisoner. Thereupon Titelmann sentenced him to the stake. He was strangled and then thrown into the flames.
At about the same time, Thomas Calberg, tapestry weaver, of Tournay, within the jurisdiction of this same inquisitor, was convicted of having copied some hymns from a book printed in Geneva. He was burned alive. Another man, whose name has perished, was hacked to death with seven blows of a rusty sword, in presence of his wife, who was so horror-stricken that she died on the spot before her husband. His crime, to be sure, was anabaptism, the most deadly offense in the calendar. In the same year, one Walter Kapell was burned at the stake for heretical opinions. He was a man of some property, and beloved by the poor people of Dixmuyde, in Flanders, where he resided, for his many charities. A poor idiot, who had been often fed by his bounty, called out to the inquisitor’s subalterns, as they bound his patron to the stake, “Ye are bloody murderers; that man has done no wrong; but has given me bread to eat.” With these words, he cast himself headlong into the flames to perish with his protector, but was with difficulty rescued by the officers. A day or two afterwards, he made his way to the stake, where the half-burnt skeleton of Walter Kapell still remained, took the body upon his shoulders, and carried it through the streets to the house of the chief burgomaster, where several other magistrates happened then to be in session. Forcing his way into their presence, he laid his burden at their feet, crying, “There, murderers! ye have eaten his flesh, now eat his bones!” It has not been recorded whether Titelmann sent him to keep company with his friend in the next world. The fate of so obscure a victim could hardly find room on the crowded pages of the Netherland martyrdom.
This kind of work, which went on daily, did not increase the love of the people for the inquisition or the edicts. It terrified many, but it inspired more with that noble resistance to oppression, particularly to religious oppression, which is the sublimest instinct of human nature. Men confronted the terrible inquisitors with a courage equal to their cruelty. At Tournay, one of the chief cities of Titelmann’s district, and almost before his eyes, one Bertrand le Blas, a velvet manufacturer, committed what was held an almost incredible crime. Having begged his wife and children to pray for a blessing upon what he was about to undertake, he went on Christmas day to the Cathedral of Tournay and stationed himself near the altar. Having awaited the moment in which the priest held on high the consecrated host, Le Blas then forced his way through the crowd, snatched the wafer from the hands of the astonished ecclesiastic, and broke it into bits, crying aloud, as he did so, “Misguided men, do ye take this thing to be Jesus Christ, your Lord and Saviour?” With these words, he threw the fragments on the ground and trampled them with his feet.* The amazement and horror were so universal at such an appalling offense, that not a finger was raised to arrest the criminal. Priests and congregation were alike paralyzed, so that he would have found no difficulty in making his escape. He did not stir, however; he had come to the church determined to execute what he considered a sacred duty, and to abide the consequences. After a time, he was apprehended.
The inquisitor demanded if he repented of what he had done. He protested, on the contrary, that he gloried in the deed, and that he would die a hundred deaths to rescue from such daily profanation the name of his Redeemer, Christ. He was then put thrice to the torture, that he might be forced to reveal his accomplices. It did not seem in human power for one lean to accomplish such a deed of darkness without confederates. Bertrand had none, however, and could denounce none. A frantic sentence was then devised as a feeble punishment for so much wickedness. He was dragged on a hurdle, with his mouth closed with an iron gag, to the market-place. Here his right hand and foot were burned and twisted off between two red-hot irons. His tongue was then torn out by the roots, and because he still endeavored to call upon the name of God, the iron gag was again applied. With his arms and legs fastened together behind his back, he was then hooked by the middle of his body to an iron chain, and made to swing to and fro over a slow fire till he was entirely roasted. His life lasted almost to the end of these ingenious tortures, but his fortitude lasted as long as his life.
* It may be well supposed that this would be regarded as a crime of almost inconceivable magnitude. It was death even to refuse to kneel in the streets when the wafer was carried by. Thus, for example, a poor huckster, named Simon, at Bergen-op-Zoom, who neglected to prostrate himself before his booth at the passage of the host, was immediately burned. Instances of the same punishment for that offense might be multiplied. In this particular case, it is recorded that the sheriff who was present at the execution was so much affected by the courage and fervor of the simple-minded victim, that he went home, took to his bed, became delirious, crying constantly, “Ah, Simon! Simon!” and died miserably, “notwithstanding all that the monks could do to console him.”
In the next year, Titelmann caused one Robert Ogier, of Ryssel, in Flanders, to be arrested, together with his wife and two sons. Their crime consisted in not going to mass, and in practicing private worship at home. They confessed the offense, for they protested that they could not endure to see the profanation of their Savior’s name in the idolatrous sacraments. They were asked what rites they practiced in their own house. One of the sons, a mere boy, answered, “We fall on our knees, and pray to God that he may enlighten our hearts, and forgive our sins. We pray for our sovereign, that his reign may be prosperous, and his life peaceful. We also pray for the magistrates and others in authority, that God may protect and preserve them all.” The boy’s simple eloquence drew tears even from the eyes of some of his judges, for the inquisitor had placed the case before the civil tribunal. The father and eldest son were, however, condemned to the flames. “Oh God!” prayed the youth at the stake, “Eternal Father, accept the sacrifice of our lives, in the name of thy beloved Son.” “Thou liest, scoundrel!” fiercely interrupted a monk, who was lighting the fire, “God is not your father; ye are the devil’s children.” As the flames rose about them, the boy cried out once more, “Look, my father, all heaven is opening, and I see ten hundred thousand angels rejoicing over us. Let us be glad, for we are dying for the truth.” “Thou liest! thou liest!” again screamed the monk, “all hell is opening, and you see ten thousand devils thrusting you into eternal fire.”
Eight days afterwards, the wife of Osier and his other son were burned, so that there was an end of that family. Such are a few isolated specimens of the manner of proceeding in a single district of the Netherlands. The inquisitor Titelmann certainly deserved his terrible reputation. Men called him Saul the persecutor, and it was well known that he had been originally tainted with the heresy which he had, for so many years, been furiously chastising. At the epoch which now engages our attention, he felt stimulated by the avowed policy of the government to fresh exertions, by which all his previous achievements should be cast into the shade. In one day he broke into a house in Ryssel, seized John de Swarte, his wife and four children, together with two newly-married couples, and two other persons, convicted them of reading the Bible, and of praying in their own doors, and had them all immediately burned.
Are these things related merely to excite superfluous horror? Are the sufferings of these obscure Christians beneath the dignity of history? Is it not better to deal with murder and oppression in the abstract, without entering into trivial details? The answer is, that these things are the history of the Netherlands at this epoch; that these hideous details furnish the causes of that immense movement, out of which a great republic was born and an ancient tyranny destroyed; and that Cardinal Granvelle was ridiculous when he asserted that the people would not open their mouths if the seigniors did not make such a noise. Because the great lords “owed their very souls”; because convulsions might help to pay their debts, and furnish forth their masquerades and banquets; because the Prince of Orange was ambitious, and Egmont jealous of the cardinal; therefore superficial writers found it quite natural that the country should be disturbed, although that “vile and mischievous animal, the people,” might have no objection to a continuance of the system which had been at work so long. On the contrary, it was exactly because the movement was a popular and a religious movement that it will always retain its place among the most important events of history. Dignified documents, state papers, solemn treaties, are often of no more value than the lambskin on which they are engrossed. Ten thousand nameless victims, in the cause of religious and civil freedom, may build up great states and alter the aspect of whole continents.
The nobles, no doubt, were conspicuous, and it was well for the cause of the right that, as in the early hours of English liberty, the crown and miter were opposed by the baron’s sword and shield. Had all the seigniors made common cause with Philip and Granvelle, instead of setting their breasts against the inquisition, the cause of truth and liberty would have been still more desperate. Nevertheless they were directed and controlled, under Providence, by humbler, but more powerful agencies than their own. The nobles were but the gilded hands on the outside of the dial—the hour to strike was determined by the obscure but weighty movements within.
Nor is it, perhaps, always better to rely upon abstract phraseology, to produce a necessary impression. Upon some minds, declamation concerning liberty of conscience and religious tyranny makes but a vague impression, while an effect may be produced upon them, for example by a dry, concrete, cynical entry in an account book, such as the following, taken at hazard from the register of municipal expenses at Tournay, during the years with which we are now occupied:
This was the treatment to which thousands, and tens of thousands, had been subjected in the provinces. Men, women, and children were burned, and their “cinders” thrown away, for idle words against Rome, spoken years before, for praying alone in their closets, for not kneeling to a wafer when they met it in the streets, for thoughts to which they had never given utterance, but which, on inquiry, they were too honest to deny. Certainly with this work going on year after year in every city in the Netherlands, and now set into renewed and vigorous action by a man who wore a crown only that he might the better torture his fellow creatures, it was time that the very stones in the streets should be moved to mutiny.
Thus it may be seen of how much value were the protestations of Philip and of Granvelle, on which much stress has latterly been laid, that it was not their intention to introduce the Spanish inquisition. With the edicts and the Netherland inquisition, such as we have described them, the step was hardly necessary.
In fact, the main difference between the two institutions consisted in the greater efficiency of the Spanish in discovering such of its victims as were disposed to deny their faith. Devised originally for more timorous and less conscientious infidels who were often disposed to skulk in obscure places and to renounce without really abandoning their errors, it was provided with a set of venomous familiars who glided through every chamber and coiled themselves at every fireside. The secret details of each household in the realm being therefore known to the holy office and to the monarch, no infidel or heretic could escape discovery. This invisible machinery was less requisite for the Netherlands. There was comparatively little difficulty in ferreting out the “vermin”—to use the expression of a Walloon historian of that age—so that it was only necessary to maintain in good working order the apparatus for destroying the noxious creatures when unearthed. The heretics of the provinces assembled at each other’s houses to practice those rites described in such simple language by Baldwin Ogier, and denounced under such horrible penalties by the edicts. The inquisitorial system of Spain was hardly necessary for men who had but little prudence in concealing, and no inclination to disavow their creed.
“It is quite a laughable matter,” wrote Granvelle, who occasionally took a comic view of the inquisition, “that the king should send us depositions made in Spain by which we are to hunt for heretics here, as if we did not know of thousands already. Would that I had as many doubloons of annual income,” he added, “as there are public and professed heretics in the provinces.” No doubt the inquisition was in such eyes a most desirable establishment. “To speak without passion,” says the Walloon, “the inquisition well administered is a laudable institution, and not less necessary than all the other offices of spirituality and temporality belonging both to the bishops and to the commissioners of the Roman see.” The papal and episcopal establishments, in cooperation with the edicts, were enough, if thoroughly exercised and completely extended. The edicts alone were sufficient. “The edicts and the inquisition are one and the same thing,” said the Prince of Orange. The circumstance that the civil authorities were not as entirely superseded by the Netherland, as by the Spanish system, was rather a difference of form than of fact. We have seen that the secular officers of justice were at the command of the inquisitors. Sheriff, gaoler, judge, and hangman were all required, under the most terrible penalties, to do their bidding. The reader knows what the edicts were. He knows also the instructions to the corps of papal inquisitors, delivered by Charles and Philip. He knows that Philip, both in person and by letter, had done his utmost to sharpen those instructions, during the latter portion of his sojourn in the Netherlands. Fourteen new bishops, each with two special inquisitors under him, had also been appointed to carry out the great work to which the sovereign had consecrated his existence. The manner in which the hunters of heretics performed their office has been exemplified by slightly sketching the career of a single one of the sub-inquisitors, Peter Titelmann. The monarch and his minister scarcely needed, therefore, to transplant the peninsular exotic. Why should they do so? Philip, who did not often say a great deal in a few words, once expressed the whole truth of the matter in a single sentence: “Wherefore introduce the Spanish inquisition?” said he, “the inquisition of the Netherlands is much more pitiless than that of Spain.”
Such was the system of religious persecution commenced by Charles, and perfected by Philip. The king could not claim the merit of the invention, which justly belonged to the Emperor. At the same time, his responsibility for the unutterable woe caused by the continuance of the scheme is not a jot diminished. There was a time when the whole system had fallen into comparative desuetude. It was utterly abhorrent to the institutions and the manners of the Netherlanders. Even a great number of the Catholics in the provinces were averse to it. Many of the leading grandees, every one of whom was Catholic, were foremost in denouncing its continuance. In short, the inquisition had been partially endured, but never accepted. Moreover, it had never been introduced into Luxemburg or Gröningen. In Gelderland it had been prohibited by the treaty through which that province had been annexed to the emperor’s dominions, and it had been uniformly and successfully resisted in Brabant. Therefore, although Philip, taking the artful advice of Granvelle, had sheltered himself under the Emperor’s name by re-enacting, word for word, his decrees, and re-issuing his instructions, he can not be allowed any such protection at the bar of history. Such a defense for crimes so enormous is worse than futile.
In truth, both father and son recognized instinctively the intimate connection between ideas of religious and of civil freedom. “The authority of God and the supremacy of his Majesty” was the formula used with perpetual iteration to sanction the constant recourse to scaffold and funeral pile. Philip, bigoted in religion, and fanatical in his creed of the absolute power of kings, identified himself willingly with the Deity, that he might more easily punish crimes against his own sacred person. Granvelle carefully sustained him in these convictions, and fed his suspicions as to the motives of those who opposed his measures. The minister constantly represented the great seigniors as influenced by ambition and pride. They had only disapproved of the new bishoprics, he insinuated, because they were angry that his Majesty should dare to do anything without their concurrence, and because their own influence in the states would be diminished. It was their object, he said, to keep the king “in tutelage,” to make him a “shadow and a cipher,” while they should themselves exercise all authority in the provinces. It is impossible to exaggerate the effect of such suggestions upon the dull and gloomy mind to which they were addressed. It is easy, however, to see that a minister with such views was likely to be as congenial to his master as he was odious to the people. For already, at the beginning of 1562, Granvelle was extremely unpopular. “The cardinal is hated of all men,” wrote Sir Thomas Gresham. The great struggle between him and the leading nobles had already commenced. The people justly identified him with the whole infamous machinery of persecution, which he had either originated or warmly made his own.
Viglius and Berlaymont were his creatures. With the other members of the state council, according to their solemn statement, already recorded, he did not deign to consult, while he affected to hold them responsible for the measures of the administration. Even the regent herself complained that the cardinal took affairs quite out of her hands, and that he decided upon many important matters without her cognizance. She already began to feel herself the puppet which it had been intended she should become; she already felt a diminution of the respectful attachment for the ecclesiastic which had inspired her when she procured his red hat.
Granvelle was, however, most resolute in carrying out the intentions of his master. We have seen how vigorously he had already set himself to the inauguration of the new bishoprics, despite of opposition and obloquy. He was now encouraging or rebuking the inquisitors in their “pious office” throughout all the provinces. Notwithstanding his exertions, however, heresy continued to spread. In the Walloon provinces the infection was most prevalent, while judges and executioners were appalled by the mutinous demonstrations which each successive sacrifice provoked. The victims were cheered on their way to the scaffold. The hymns of Marot were sung in the very faces of the inquisitors.
Two ministers, Faveau and Mallart, were particularly conspicuous at this moment at Valenciennes. The governor of the province, Marquis Berghen, was constantly absent, for he hated with his whole soul the system of persecution. For this negligence Granvelle denounced him secretly and perpetually to Philip. “The Marquis says openly,” said the cardinal, “that ’tis not right to shed blood for matters of faith. With such men to aid us, your Majesty can judge how much progress we can make.” It was, however, important, in Granvelle’s opinion, that these two ministers at Valenciennes should be at once put to death. They were avowed heretics, and they preached to their disciples, although they certainly were not doctors of divinity. Moreover, they were accused, most absurdly, no doubt, of pretending to work miracles. It was said that, in presence of several witnesses, they had undertaken to cast out devils, and they had been apprehended on an accusation of this nature. Their offense really consisted in reading the Bible to a few of their friends. Granvelle sent Philibert de Bruxelles to Valenciennes to procure their immediate condemnation and execution. He rebuked the judges and inquisitors; he sent express orders to Marquis Berghen to repair at once to the scene of his duties. The prisoners were condemned in the autumn of 1561. The magistrates were, however, afraid to carry the sentence into effect.
Granvelle did not cease to censure them for their pusillanimity, and wrote almost daily letters, accusing the magistrates of being themselves the cause of the tumults by which they were appalled. The popular commotion was, however, not lightly to be braved. Six or seven months long the culprits remained in confinement, while daily and nightly the people crowded the streets, hurling threats and defiance at the authorities, or pressed about the prison windows, encouraging their beloved ministers, and promising to rescue them in case the attempt should be made to fulfil the sentence. At last Granvelle sent down a peremptory order to execute the culprits by fire.
On April 27, 1562, Faveau and Mallart were accordingly taken from their jail and carried to the marketplace, where arrangements had been made for burning them. Simon Faveau, as the executioner was binding him to the stake, uttered the invocation, “O! Eternal Father!” A woman in the crowd, at the same instant, took off her shoe and threw it at the funeral pile. This was a preconcerted signal. A movement was at once visible in the crowd. Men in great numbers dashed upon the barriers which had been erected in the square around the place of execution. Some seized the fagots, which had been already lighted, and scattered them in every direction; some tore up the pavements; others broke in pieces the barriers. The executioners were prevented from carrying out the sentence, but the guard were enabled, with great celerity and determination, to bring off the culprits and to place them in their dungeon again. The authorities were in doubt and dismay. The inquisitors were for putting the ministers to death in prison, and hurling their heads upon the street. Evening approached while the officials were still pondering. The people who had been chanting the Psalms of David through the town, without having decided what should be their course of action, at last determined to rescue the victims. A vast throng, after much hesitation, accordingly directed their steps to the prison. “You should have seen this vile populace,” says an eyewitness, “moving, pausing, recoiling, sweeping forward, swaying to and fro like the waves of the sea when it is agitated by contending winds.” The attack was vigorous, the defense was weak—for the authorities had expected no such fierce demonstration, notwithstanding the menacing language which had been so often uttered. The prisoners were rescued, and succeeded in making their escape from the city.
The day in which the execution had been thus prevented was called, thenceforward, the “day of the ill-burned,” (Journée des mau-brulez). One of the ministers, however, Simon Faveau, not discouraged by this near approach to martyrdom, persisted in his heretical labors, and was a few years afterwards again apprehended. “He was then,” says the chronicler, cheerfully, “burned well and finally” in the same place whence he had formerly been rescued.
This desperate resistance to tyranny was for a moment successful, because, notwithstanding the murmurs and menaces by which the storm had been preceded, the authorities had not believed the people capable of proceeding to such lengths. Had not the heretics—in the words of Inquisitor Titelmann—allowed themselves, year after year, to be taken and slaughtered like lambs? The consternation of the magistrates was soon succeeded by anger. The government at Brussels was in a frenzy of rage when informed of the occurrence. A bloody vengeance was instantly prepared, to vindicate the insult to the inquisition. On the 29th of April, detachments of Bossu’s and of Berghen’s “band of ordonnance” were sent into Valenciennes, together with a company of the Duke of Aerschot’s regiment. The prisons were instantly filled to overflowing with men and women arrested for actual or suspected participation in the tumult. Orders had been sent down from the capital to make a short process and a sharp execution for all the criminals. On the 16th of May, the slaughter commenced. Some were burned at the stake; some were beheaded; the number of victims was frightful. “Nothing was left undone by the magistrates,” says an eyewitness, with great approbation, “which could serve for the correction and amendment of the poor people.” It was long before the judges and hangmen rested from their labors. When at last the havoc was complete, it might be supposed that a sufficient vengeance had been taken for the “day of the ill-burned,” and an adequate amount of “amendment” provided for the “poor people.”
Such scenes as these did not tend to increase the loyalty of the nation, nor the popularity of the government. On Granvelle’s head was poured a daily increasing torrent of hatred. He was looked upon in the provinces as the impersonation of that religious oppression which became every moment more intolerable. The king and the regent escaped much of the odium which belonged to them, because the people chose to bestow all their maledictions upon the cardinal. There was, however, no great injustice in this embodiment. Granvelle was the government. As the people of that day were extremely reverent to royalty, they vented all their rage upon the minister, while maintaining still a conventional respect for the sovereign.
The prelate had already become the constant butt of the “Rhetoric Chambers.” These popular clubs for the manufacture of homespun poetry and street farces out of the raw material of public sentiment, occupied the place which has been more effectively filled in succeeding ages, and in free countries by the daily press. Before the invention of that most tremendous weapon, which liberty has ever wielded against tyranny, these humble but influential associations shared with the pulpit the only power which existed of moving the passions or directing the opinions of the people. They were eminently liberal in their tendencies. The authors and the actors of their comedies, poems, and pasquils were mostly artisans or tradesmen, belonging to the class out of which proceeded the early victims, and the later soldiers of the Reformation. Their bold farces and truculent satire had already effected much in spreading among the people a detestation of Church abuses. They were particularly severe upon monastic licentiousness. “These corrupt comedians, called rhetoricians,” says the Walloon contemporary already cited, “afforded much amusement to the people. Always some poor little nuns or honest monks were made a part of the farce. It seemed as if the people could take no pleasure except in ridiculing God and the Church.”
The people, however, persisted in the opinion that the ideas of a monk and of God were not inseparable. Certainly the piety of the early reformers was sufficiently fervent, and had been proved by the steadiness with which they confronted torture and death, but they knew no measure in the ridicule which they heaped upon the men by whom they were daily murdered in droves. The rhetoric comedies were not admirable in an aesthetic point of view, but they were wrathful and sincere. Therefore they cost many thousand lives, but they sowed the seed of resistance to religious tyranny, to spring up one day in a hundredfold harvest. It was natural that the authorities should have long sought to suppress these perambulating dramas. “There was at that tyme,” wrote honest Richard Clough to Sir Thomas Gresham, “syche playes (of Reteryke) played thet hath cost many a 1000 man’s lyves, for in these plays was the Word of God first opened in thys country. Weche playes were and are forbidden moche more strictly than any of the bookes of Martin Luther.”
These rhetoricians were now particularly inflamed against Granvelle. They were personally excited against him, because he had procured the suppression of their religious dramas. “These rhetoricians who make farces and street plays,” wrote the cardinal to Philip, “are particularly angry with me, because two years ago I prevented them from ridiculing the holy Scriptures.” Nevertheless, these institutions continued to pursue their opposition to the course of the government. Their uncouth gambols, their awkward but stunning blows rendered daily service to the cause of religious freedom. Upon the newly-appointed bishops they poured out an endless succession of rhymes and rebuses, epigrams, caricatures and extravaganzas. Poems were pasted upon the walls of every house, and passed from hand to hand. Farces were enacted in every street, the odious ecclesiastics figuring as the principal buffoons. These representations gave so much offense that renewed edicts were issued to suppress them. The prohibition was resisted, and even ridiculed in many provinces, particularly in Holland. The tyranny which was able to drown a nation in blood and tears, was powerless to prevent them from laughing most bitterly at their oppressors.
The tanner, Cleon, was never belabored more soundly by the wits of Athens, than the prelate by these Flemish “rhetoricians.” With infinitely less Attic salt, but with as much heartiness as Aristophanes could have done, the popular rhymers gave the minister ample opportunity to understand the position which he occupied in the Netherlands. One day a petitioner placed a paper in his hand and vanished. It contained some scurrilous verses upon himself, together with a caricature of his person. In this he was represented as a hen seated upon a pile of eggs, out of which he was hatching a brood of bishops. Some of these were clipping the shell, some thrusting forth an arm, some a leg, while others were running about with miters on their heads, all bearing whimsical resemblance to various prelates who had been newly-appointed. Above the cardinal’s head the devil was represented hovering, with these words issuing from his mouth: “This is my beloved Son, listen to him, my people.”
There was another lampoon of a similar nature, which was so well executed, that it especially excited Granvelle’s anger. It was a rhymed satire of a general nature, like the rest, but so delicate and so stinging, that the cardinal ascribed it to his old friend and present enemy, Simon Renard. This man, a Burgundian by birth, and college associate of Granvelle, had been befriended both by himself and his father. Aided by their patronage and his own abilities, he had arrived at distinguished posts, having been Spanish envoy both in France and England, and one of the negotiators of the truce of Vaucelles. He had latterly been disappointed in his ambition to become a councillor of state, and had vowed vengeance upon the cardinal, to whom he attributed his ill success. He was certainly guilty of much ingratitude, for he had been under early obligations to the man in whose side he now became a perpetual thorn. It must be confessed, on the other hand, that Granvelle repaid the enmity of his old associate with a malevolence equal to his own, and if Renard did not lose his head as well as his political station, it was not for want of sufficient insinuation on the part of the minister. Especially did Granvelle denounce him to “the master” as the perverter of Egmont, while he usually described that nobleman himself, as weak, vain, “a friend of smoke,” easily misguided, but in the main well-intentioned and loyal. At the same time, with all these vague commendations, he never omitted to supply the suspicious king with an account of every fact or every rumor to the count’s discredit. In the case of this particular satire, he informed Philip that he could swear it came from the pen of Renard, although, for the sake of deception, the rhetoric comedians had been employed. He described the production as filled with “false, abominable, and infernal things,” and as treating not only himself, but the pope and the whole ecclesiastical order with as much contumely as could be showed in Germany. He then proceeded to insinuate, in the subtle manner which was peculiarly his own, that Egmont was a party to the publication of the pasquil. Renard visited at that house, he said, and was received there on a much more intimate footing than was becoming. Eight days before the satire was circulated, there had been a conversation in Egmont’s house, of a nature exactly similar to the substance of the pamphlet. The man in whose hands it was first seen, continued Granvelle, was a sword cutler, a godson of the count. This person said that he had torn it from the gate of the city hall, but God grant, prayed the cardinal, that it was not he who had first posted it up there. ’Tis said that Egmont and Mansfeld, he added, have sent many times to the cutler to procure copies of the satire, all which augments the suspicion against them.
With the nobles he was on no better terms than with the people. The great seigniors, Orange, Egmont, Horn, and others, openly avowed their hostility to him, and had already given their reasons to the king. Mansfeld and his son at that time were both with the opposition. Aerschot and Aremberg kept aloof from the league which was forming against the prelate, but had small sympathy for his person. Even Berlaymont began to listen to overtures from the leading nobles, who, among other inducements, promised to supply his children with bishoprics. There were none truly faithful and submissive to the cardinal but such men as the Prévot Morillon, who had received much advancement from him. This distinguished pluralist was popularly called “double A, B, C,” to indicate that he had twice as many benefices as there were letters in the alphabet. He had, however, no objection to more, and was faithful to the dispensing power. The same course was pursued by Secretary Bave, Esquire Bordey, and other expectants and dependents.
Viglius, always remarkable for his pusillanimity, was at this period already anxious to retire. The erudite and opulent Frisian preferred a less tempestuous career. He was in favor of the edicts, but he trembled at the uproar which their literal execution was daily exciting, for he knew the temper of his countrymen. On the other hand, he was too sagacious not to know the inevitable consequence of opposition to the will of Philip. He was therefore most eager to escape the dilemma. He was a scholar, and could find more agreeable employment among his books. He had accumulated vast wealth, and was desirous to retain it as long as possible. He had a learned head and was anxious to keep it upon his shoulders. These simple objects could be better attained in a life of privacy. The post of president of the privy council and member of the “Consulta” was a dangerous one. He knew that the king was sincere in his purposes. He foresaw that the people would one day be terribly in earnest. Of ancient Frisian blood himself, he knew that the spirit of the ancient Batavians and Frisians had not wholly deserted their descendants. He knew that they were not easily roused, that they were patient, but that they would strike at last and would endure. He urgently solicited the king to release him, and pleaded his infirmities of body in excuse. Philip, however, would not listen to his retirement, and made use of the most convincing arguments to induce him to remain. Four hundred and fifty annual florins, secured by good reclaimed swamps in Friesland, two thousand more in hand, with a promise of still larger emoluments when the king should come to the Netherlands, were reasons which the learned doctor honestly confessed himself unable to resist. Fortified by these arguments, he remained at his post, continued the avowed friend and adherent of Granvelle, and sustained with magnanimity the invectives of nobles and people. To do him justice, he did what he could to conciliate antagonists and to compromise principles. If it had ever been possible to find the exact path between right and wrong, the president would have found it, and walked in it with respectability and complacency.
In the council, however, the cardinal continued to carry it with a high hand; turning his back on Orange and Egmont, and retiring with the duchess and president to consult, after every session. Proud and important personages, like the prince and count, could ill brook such insolence; moreover, they suspected the cardinal of prejudicing the mind of their sovereign against them. A report was very current, and obtained almost universal belief, that Granvelle had expressly advised his Majesty to take off the heads of at least half a dozen of the principal nobles in the land. This was an error; “These two seigniors,” wrote the cardinal to Philip, “have been informed that I have written to your Majesty, that you will never be master of these provinces without taking off at least half a dozen heads, and that because it would be difficult, on account of the probable tumults which such a course would occasion, to do it here, your Majesty means to call them to Spain and do it there. Your Majesty can judge whether such a thing has ever entered my thoughts. I have laughed at it as a ridiculous invention. This gross forgery is one of Renard’s.” The cardinal further stated to his Majesty that he had been informed by these same nobles that the Duke of Alva, when a hostage for the treaty of Cateau Cambresis, had negotiated an alliance between the crowns of France and Spain for the extirpation of heresy by the sword. He added that he intended to deal with the nobles with all gentleness, and that he should do his best to please them. The only thing which he could not yield was the authority of his Majesty; to sustain that, he would sacrifice his life, if necessary. At the same time Granvelle carefully impressed upon the king the necessity of contradicting the report alluded to, a request which he took care should also be made through the regent in person. He had already, both in his own person and in that of the duchess, begged for a formal denial, on the king’s part, that there was any intention of introducing the Spanish inquisition into the Netherlands, and that the cardinal had counseled, originally, the bishoprics. Thus instructed, the king accordingly wrote to Margaret of Parma to furnish the required contradictions. In so doing, he made a pithy remark. “The cardinal had not counseled the cutting off the half a dozen heads,” said the monarch, “but perhaps it would not be so bad to do it!” Time was to show whether Philip was likely to profit by the hint conveyed in the cardinal’s disclaimer, and whether the factor “half dozen” were to be used or not as a simple multiplier in the terrible account preparing.
The contradictions, however sincere, were not believed by the persons most interested. Nearly all the nobles continued to regard the cardinal with suspicion and aversion. Many of the ruder and more reckless class vied with the rhetoricians and popular caricaturists in the practical jests which they played off almost daily against the common foe. Especially Count Brederode, “a madman, if there ever were one,” as a contemporary expressed himself, was most untiring in his efforts to make Granvelle ridiculous. He went almost nightly to masquerades, dressed as a cardinal or a monk; and as he was rarely known to be sober on these or any other occasions, the wildness of his demonstrations may easily be imagined. He was seconded on all these occasions by his cousin Robert de la Marck, Seigneur de Lumey, a worthy descendant of the famous “Wild Boar of Ardennes,” a man brave to temerity, but utterly depraved, licentious, and sanguinary. These two men, both to be widely notorious, from their prominence in many of the most striking scenes by which the great revolt was ushered in, had vowed the most determined animosity to the cardinal, which was manifested in the reckless, buffooning way which belonged to their characters. Besides the ecclesiastical costumes in which they always attired themselves at their frequent festivities, they also wore fox-tails in their hats instead of plumes. They decked their servants also with the same ornaments, openly stating that by these symbols they meant to signify that the old fox Granvelle, and his cubs, Viglius, Berlaymont, and the rest, should soon be hunted down by them, and the brush placed in their hats as a trophy.
Moreover, there is no doubt that frequent threats of personal violence were made against the cardinal. Granvelle informed the king that his life was continually menaced by the nobles, but that he feared them little, for he believed them too prudent to attempt anything of the kind. There is no doubt, when his position with regard to the upper and lower classes in the country is considered, that there was enough to alarm a timid man, but Granvelle was constitutionally brave. He was accused of wearing a secret shirt of mail, of living in perpetual trepidation, of having gone on his knees to Egmont and Orange, of having sent Richardot, Bishop of Arras, to intercede for him in the same humiliating manner with Egmont. All these stories were fables. Bold as he was arrogant, he affected at this time to look down with a forgiving contempt on the animosity of the nobles.
He passed much of his time alone, writing his eternal dispatches to the king. He had a country house, called La Fontaine, surrounded by beautiful gardens, a little way outside the gates of Brussels, where he generally resided, and whence, notwithstanding the remonstrances of his friends, he often returned to town, after sunset, alone, or with but a few attendants. He avowed that he feared no attempts at assassination, for, if the seigniors took his life, they would destroy the best friend they ever had. This villa, where most of his plans were matured and his state papers drawn up, was called by the people, in derision of his supposed ancestry, “The Smithy.” Here, as they believed, was the anvil upon which the chains of their slavery were forging; here, mostly deserted by those who had been his earlier associates, he assumed a philosophical demeanor which exasperated, without deceiving his adversaries. Over the great gate of his house he had placed the marble statue of a female. It held an empty wine cup in one hand, and an urn of flowing water in the other. The single word “Durate” was engraved upon the pedestal. By the motto, which was his habitual device, he was supposed, in this application, to signify that his power would outlast that of the nobles, and that perennial and pure as living water, it would flow tranquilly on, long after the wine of their life had been drunk to the lees.
The fiery extravagance of his adversaries, and the calm and limpid moderation of his own character, thus symbolized, were supposed to convey a moral lesson to the world. The hieroglyphics, thus interpreted, were not relished by the nobles; all avoided his society, and declined his invitations. He consoled himself with the company of the lesser gentry, a class which he now began to patronize, and which he urgently recommended to the favor of the king, hinting that military and civil offices bestowed upon their inferiors would be a means of lowering the pride of the grandees. He also affected to surround himself with even humbler individuals. “It makes me laugh,” he wrote to Philip, “to see the great seigniors absenting themselves from my dinners; nevertheless, I can always get plenty of guests at my table, gentlemen and councillors. I sometimes invite even citizens, in order to gain their good will.”
The regent was well aware of the anger excited in the breasts of the leading nobles by the cool manner in which they had been thrust out of their share in the administration of affairs. She defended herself with acrimony in her letters to the king, although a defense was hardly needed in that quarter for implicit obedience to the royal commands. She confessed her unwillingness to consult with her enemies. She avowed her determination to conceal the secrets of the government from those who were capable of abusing her confidence. She represented that there were members of the council who would willingly take advantage of the trepidation which she really felt, and which she should exhibit if she expressed herself without reserve before them. For this reason she confined herself, as Philip had always intended, exclusively to the Consulta. It was not difficult to recognize the hand which wrote the letter thus signed by Margaret of Parma.
Both nobles and people were at this moment irritated by another circumstance. The civil war having again broken out in France, Philip, according to the promise made by him to Catharine de Medici, when he took her daughter in marriage, was called upon to assist the Catholic party with auxiliaries. He sent three thousand infantry, accordingly, which he had levied in Italy, as many more collected in Spain, and gave immediate orders that the duchess of Parma should dispatch at least two thousand cavalry from the Netherlands. Great was the indignation in the council when the commands were produced. Sore was the dismay of Margaret. It was impossible to obey the king. The idea of sending the famous mounted gendarmerie of the provinces to fight against tile French Huguenots could not be tolerated for an instant. The “bands of ordonnance” were very few in number, and were to guard the frontier. They were purely for domestic purposes. It formed no part of their duty to go upon crusades in foreign lands, still less to take a share in a religious quarrel, and least of all to assist a monarch against a nation. These views were so cogently presented to the duchess in council, that she saw the impossibility of complying with her brother’s commands. She wrote to Philip to that effect. Meantime, another letter arrived out of Spain, chiding her delay, and impatiently calling upon her to furnish the required cavalry at once. The Duchess was in a dilemma. She feared to provoke another storm in the council, for there was already sufficient wrangling there upon domestic subjects. She knew it was impossible to obtain the consent, even of Berlaymont and Viglius, to such an odious measure as the one proposed. She was, however, in great trepidation at the peremptory tone of the king’s dispatch. Under the advice of Granvelle, she had recourse to a trick. A private and confidential letter of Philip was read to the council, but with alterations suggested and interpolated by the cardinal. The king was represented as being furious at the delay, but as willing that a sum of money should be furnished instead of the cavalry, as originally required. This compromise, after considerable opposition, was accepted. The duchess wrote to Philip, explaining and apologizing for the transaction. The king received the substitution with as good a grace as could have been expected, and sent fifteen hundred troopers from Spain to his Medicean mother-in-law, drawing upon the Duchess of Parma for the money to pay their expenses. Thus was the industry of the Netherlands taxed that the French might be persecuted by their own monarch.
The regent had been forbidden, by her brother, to convoke the states-general, a body which the Prince of Orange, sustained by Berghen, Montigny, and other nobles, was desirous of having assembled. It may be easily understood that Granvelle would take the best care that the royal prohibition should be enforced. The duchess, however, who, as already hinted, was beginning to feel somewhat uncomfortable under the cardinal’s dominion, was desirous of consulting some larger council than that with which she held her daily deliberations. A meeting of the Knights of the Fleece was accordingly summoned. They assembled in Brussels, in the month of May, 1562. The learned Viglius addressed them in a long and eloquent speech, in which he discussed the troubled and dangerous condition of the provinces, alluded to some of its causes, and suggested various remedies. It may be easily conceived, however, that the inquisition was not stated among the causes, nor its suppression included among the remedies. A discourse, in which the fundamental topic was thus conscientiously omitted, was not likely, with all its concinnities, to make much impression upon the disaffected knights, or to exert a soothing influence upon the people. The orator was, however, delighted with his own performance. He informs us, moreover, that the duchess was equally charmed, and that she protested she had never in her whole life heard anything more “delicate, more suitable, or more eloquent.” The Prince of Orange, however, did not sympathize with her admiration. The president’s elegant periods produced but little effect upon his mind. The meeting adjourned, after a few additional words from the duchess, in which she begged the knights to ponder well the causes of the increasing discontent, and to meet her again, prepared to announce what, in their opinion, would be the course best adapted to maintain the honor of the king, the safety of the provinces, and the glory of God.
Soon after the separation of the assembly, the prince of Orange issued invitations to most of the knights, to meet at his house for the purpose of private deliberation. The president and cardinal were not included in these invitations. The meeting was, in fact, what we should call a caucus, rather than a general gathering. Nevertheless, there were many of the government party present—men who differed from the prince, and were inclined to support Granvelle. The meeting was a stormy one. Two subjects were discussed. The first was the proposition of the duchess, to investigate the general causes of the popular dissatisfaction; the second was an inquiry how it could be rendered practicable to discuss political matters in future—a proceeding now impossible, in consequence of the perverseness and arrogance of certain functionaries, and one which, whenever attempted, always led to the same inevitable result. This direct assault upon the cardinal produced a furious debate. His enemies were delighted with the opportunity of venting their long suppressed spleen. They indulged in savage invectives against the man whom they so sincerely hated. His adherents, on the other hand—Bossu, Berlaymont, Courieres—were as warm in his defense. They replied by indignant denials of the charge against him, and by bitter insinuations against the Prince of Orange. They charged him with nourishing the desire of being appointed governor of Brabant, an office considered inseparable from the general stadholderate of all the provinces. They protested for themselves that they were actuated by no ambitious designs—that they were satisfied with their own position, and not inspired by jealousy of personages more powerful than themselves. It is obvious that such charges and recriminations could excite no healing result, and that the lines between cardinalists and their opponents would be defined in consequence more sharply than ever. The adjourned meeting of the chevaliers of the Fleece took place a few days afterwards.
The duchess exerted herself as much as possible to reconcile the contending factions, without being able, however, to apply the only remedy which could be effective. The man who was already fast becoming the great statesman of the country knew that the evil was beyond healing, unless by a change of purpose on the part of the government. The regent, on the other hand, who it must be confessed never exhibited any remarkable proof of intellectual ability during the period of her residence in the Netherlands, was often inspired by a feeble and indefinite hope that the matter might be arranged by a compromise between the views of conflicting parties. Unfortunately the inquisition was not a fit subject for a compromise.
Nothing of radical importance was accomplished by the Assembly of the Fleece. It was decided that an application should be made to the different states for a grant of money, and that, furthermore, a special envoy should be dispatched to Spain. It was supposed by the duchess and her advisers that more satisfactory information concerning the provinces could be conveyed to Philip by word of mouth than by the most elaborate epistles. The meeting was dissolved after these two measures had been agreed upon. Doctor Viglius, upon whom devolved the duty of making the report and petition to the states, proceeded to draw up the necessary application. This he did with his customary elegance, and, as usual, very much to his own satisfaction. On returning to his house, however, after having discharged this duty, he was very much troubled at finding that a large mulberry tree, which stood in his garden, had been torn up by the roots in a violent hurricane. The disaster was considered ominous by the president, and he was accordingly less surprised than mortified when he found, subsequently, that his demand upon the orders had remained as fruitless as his ruined tree. The tempest which had swept his garden he considered typical of the storm which was soon to rage through the land, and he felt increased anxiety to reach a haven while it was yet comparatively calm.
The estates rejected the Request for supplies, on various grounds—among others, that the civil war was drawing to a conclusion in France, and that less danger was to be apprehended from that source than had lately been the case. Thus, the “cup of bitterness,” of which Granvelle had already complained, was again commended to his lips, and there was more reason than ever for the government to regret that the national representatives had contracted the habit of meddling with financial matters.
Florence de Montmorency, Seigneur de Montigny, was selected by the regent for the mission which had been decided upon for Spain. This gentleman was brother to Count Horn, but possessed of higher talents and a more amiable character than those of the admiral. He was a warm friend of Orange, and a bitter enemy to Granvelle. He was a sincere Catholic, but a determined foe to the inquisition. His brother had declined to act as envoy. This refusal can excite but little surprise, when Philip’s wrath at their parting interview is recalled, and when it is also remembered that the new mission would necessarily lay bare fresh complaints against the cardinal, still more extensive than those which had produced the former explosion of royal indignation. Montigny, likewise, would have preferred to remain at home, but he was overruled. It had been written in his destiny that he should go twice into the angry lion’s den, and that he should come forth once, alive.
Thus it has been shown that there was an open, avowed hostility on the part of the grand seignors and most of the lesser nobility to the cardinal and his measures. The people fully and enthusiastically sustained the Prince of Orange in his course. There was nothing underhand in the opposition made to the government. The Netherlands did not constitute an absolute monarchy. They did not even constitute a monarchy. There was no king in the provinces. Philip was King of Spain, Naples, Jerusalem, but he was only Duke of Brabant, Count of Flanders, Lord of Friesland, hereditary chief, in short, under various titles, of seventeen states, each one of which, although not republican, possessed constitutions as sacred as, and much more ancient than, the Crown. The resistance to the absolutism of Granvelle and Philip was, therefore, logical, legal, constitutional. It was no cabal, no secret league, as the cardinal had the effrontery to term it, but a legitimate exercise of powers which belonged of old to those who wielded them, and which only an unrighteous innovation could destroy.
Granvelle’s course was secret and subtle. During the whole course of the proceedings which have just been described, he was in daily confidential correspondence with the king, besides being the actual author of the multitudinous dispatches which were sent with the signature of the duchess. He openly asserted his right to monopolize all the powers of the government; he did his utmost to force upon the reluctant and almost rebellious people the odious measures which the king had resolved upon, while in his secret letters he uniformly represented the nobles who opposed him, as being influenced, not by an honest hatred of oppression and attachment to ancient rights, but by resentment, and jealousy of their own importance. He assumed, in his letters to his master, that the absolutism already existed of right and in fact, which it was the intention of Philip to establish. While he was depriving the nobles, the states, and the nation of their privileges, and even of their natural rights (a slender heritage in those days), he assured the king that there was an evident determination to reduce his authority to a cipher.
The estates, he wrote, had usurped the whole administration of the finances, and had farmed it out to Antony van Stralen and others, who were making enormous profits in the business. “The seignors,” he said, “declare at their dinner parties that I wish to make them subject to the absolute despotism of your Majesty. In point of fact, however, they really exercise a great deal more power than the governors of particular provinces ever did before; and it lacks but little that Madame and your Majesty should become mere ciphers, while the grandees monopolize the whole power.” “This,” he continued, “is the principal motive of their opposition to the new bishoprics. They were angry that your Majesty should have dared to solicit such an arrangement at Rome, without first obtaining their consent. They wish to reduce your Majesty’s authority to so low a point that you can do nothing unless they desire it. Their object is the destruction of the royal authority and of the administration of justice, in order to avoid the payment of their debts, telling their creditors constantly that they have spent their all in your Majesty’s service, and that they have never received recompense or salary. This they do to make your Majesty odious.”
As a matter of course, he attributed the resistance on the part of the great nobles, every man of whom was Catholic, to base motives. They were mere demagogues, who refused to burn their fellow creatures, not from any natural repugnance to the task, but in order to gain favor with the populace. “This talk about the inquisition,” said he, “is all a pretext. ’Tis only to throw dust in the eyes of the vulgar, and to persuade them into tumultuous demonstrations, while the real reason is, that they choose that your Majesty should do nothing without their permission, and through their hands.”
He assumed sometimes, however, a tone of indulgence toward the seignors—who formed the main topics of his letters—an affectation which might, perhaps, have offended them almost as much as more open and sincere denunciation. He could forgive offenses against himself. It was for Philip to decide as to their merits or crimes so far as the Crown was concerned. His language often was befitting a wise man who was speaking of very little children. “Assonleville has told me, as coming from Egmont,” he wrote, “that many of the nobles are dissatisfied with me, hearing from Spain that I am endeavoring to prejudice your Majesty against them.” Certainly the tone of the cardinal’s daily letters would have justified such suspicion, could the nobles have seen them. Granvelle begged the king, however, to disabuse them upon this point. “Would to God,” said he, piously, “that they all would decide to sustain the authority of your Majesty, and to procure such measures as tend to the service of God and the security of the states. May I cease to exist if I do not desire to render good service to the very least of these gentlemen. Your Majesty knows that, when they do any thing for the benefit of your service, I am never silent. Nevertheless, thus they are constituted. I hope, however, that this flurry will blow over, and that when your Majesty comes they will all be found to deserve rewards of merit.”
Of Egmont, especially, he often spoke in terms of vague, but somewhat condescending commendation. He never manifested resentment in his letters, although, as already stated, the count had occasionally indulged, not only in words, but in deeds of extreme violence against him. But the cardinal was too forgiving a Christian, or too keen a politician not to pass by such offenses, so long as there was a chance of so great a noble’s remaining or becoming his friend. He, accordingly, described him, in general, as a man whose principles, in the main, were good, but who was easily led by his own vanity and the perverse counsels of others. He represented him as having been originally a warm supporter of the new bishoprics, and as having expressed satisfaction that two of them, those of Bruges and Ypres, should have been within his own stadholderate. He regretted, however, to inform the king, that the count was latterly growing lukewarm, perhaps from fear of finding himself separated from the other nobles. On the whole, he was tractable enough, said the cardinal, if he were not easily persuaded by the vile; but one day, perhaps, he might open his eyes again. Notwithstanding these vague expressions of approbation, which Granvelle permitted himself in his letters to Philip, he never failed to transmit to the monarch every fact, every rumor, every innuendo which might prejudice the royal mind against that nobleman or against any of the noblemen, whose characters he at the same time protested he was most unwilling to injure.
It is true that he dealt mainly by insinuation, while he was apt to conclude his statements with disclaimers upon his own part, and with hopes of improvement in the conduct of the seignors. At this particular point of time he furnished Philip with a long and most circumstantial account of a treasonable correspondence which was thought to be going on between the leading nobles and the future emperor, Maximilian. The narrative was a good specimen of the masterly style of innuendo in which the cardinal excelled, and by which he was often enabled to convince his master of the truth of certain statements while affecting to discredit them. He had heard a story, he said, which he felt bound to communicate to his Majesty, although he did not himself implicitly believe it. He felt himself the more bound to speak upon the subject because it tallied exactly with intelligence which he had received from another source. The story was that one of these seigniors (the cardinal did not know which, for he had not yet thought proper to investigate the matter) had said that rather than consent that the king should act in this matter of the bishoprics against the privileges of Brabant, the nobles would elect for their sovereign some other prince of the blood. This, said the cardinal, was perhaps a fantasy rather than an actual determination. Count Egmont, to be sure, he said, was constantly exchanging letters with the King of Bohemia (Maximilian), and it was supposed, therefore, that he was the prince of the blood who was to be elected to govern the provinces. It was determined that he should be chosen King of the Romans, by fair means or by force, that he should assemble an army to attack the Netherlands, that a corresponding movement should be made within the states, and that the people should be made to rise, by giving them the reins in the matter of religion. The cardinal, after recounting all the particulars of this fiction with great minuteness, added, with apparent frankness, that the correspondence between Egmont and Maximilian did not astonish him, because there had been much intimacy between them in the time of the late Emperor. He did not feel convinced, therefore, from the frequency of the letters exchanged, that there was a scheme to raise an army to attack the provinces and to have him elected by force. On the contrary, Maximilian could never accomplish such a scheme without the assistance of his imperial father the Emperor, whom Granvelle was convinced would rather die than be mixed up with such villainy against Philip. Moreover, unless the people should become still more corrupted by the bad counsels constantly given them, the cardinal did not believe that any of the great nobles had the power to dispose in this way of the provinces at their pleasure. Therefore, he concluded that the story was to be rejected as improbable, although it had come to him directly from the house of the said Count Egmont. It is remarkable that, at the commencement of his narrative, the cardinal had expressed his ignorance of the name of the seignior who was hatching all this treason, while at the end of it he gave a local habitation to the plot in the palace of Egmont. It is also quite characteristic that he should add that, after all, he considered that nobleman one of the most honest of all, if appearances did not deceive.
It may be supposed, however, that all these details of a plot which was quite imaginary, were likely to produce more effect upon a mind so narrow and so suspicious as that of Philip, than could the vague assertions of the cardinal, that in spite of all, he would dare be sworn that he thought the count honest, and that men should be what they seemed.
Notwithstanding the conspiracy, which, according to Granvelle’s letters, had been formed against him, notwithstanding that his life was daily threatened, he did not advise the king at this period to avenge him by any public explosion of wrath. He remembered, he piously observed, that vengeance belonged to God, and that He would repay. Therefore he passed over insults meekly, because that comported best with his Majesty’s service. Therefore, too, he instructed Philip to make no demonstration at that time, in order not to damage his own affairs. He advised him to dissemble, and to pretend not to know what was going on in the provinces. Knowing that his master looked to him daily for instructions, always obeyed them with entire docility, and, in fact, could not move a step in Netherland matters without them, he proceeded to dictate to him the terms in which he was to write to the nobles, and especially laid down rules for his guidance in his coming interviews with the Seigneur de Montigny. Philip, whose only talent consisted in the capacity to learn such lessons with laborious effort, was at this juncture particularly in need of tuition. The cardinal instructed him, accordingly, that he was to disabuse all men of the impression that the Spanish inquisition was to be introduced into the provinces. He was to write to the seigniors, promising to pay them their arrears of salary; he was to exhort them to do all in their power for the advancement of religion and maintenance of the royal authority; and he was to suggest to them that, by his answer to the Antwerp deputation, it was proved that there was no intention of establishing the inquisition of Spain, under pretext of the new bishoprics.
The king was, furthermore, to signify his desire that all the nobles should exert themselves to efface this false impression from the popular mind. He was also to express himself to the same effect concerning the Spanish inquisition, the bishoprics, and the religious question, in the public letters to Madame de Parma, which were to be read in full council. The cardinal also renewed his instructions to the king as to the manner in which the Antwerp deputies were to be answered, by giving them, namely, assurances that to transplant the Spanish inquisition into the provinces would be as hopeless as to attempt its establishment in Naples. He renewed his desire that Philip should contradict the story about the half dozen heads, t and he especially directed him to inform Montigny that Berghen had known of the new bishoprics before the cardinal. This, urged Granvelle, was particularly necessary, because the seigniors were irritated that so important a matter should have been decided upon without their advice, and because the Marquis Berghen was now the “cock of the opposition.”
At about the same time, it was decided by Granvelle and the regent, in conjunction with the king, to sow distrust and jealousy among the nobles, by giving greater “mercedes” to some than to others, although large sums were really due to all. In particular, the attempt was made in this paltry manner, to humiliate William of Orange. A considerable sum was paid to Egmont, and a trifling one to the prince, in consideration of their large claims upon the treasury. Moreover the Duke of Aerschot was selected as envoy to the Frankfort Diet, where the King of the Romans was to be elected, with the express intention, as Margaret wrote to Philip, of creating divisions among the nobles, as he had suggested. The duchess at the same time informed her brother that, according to Berlaymont, the Prince of Orange was revolving some great design, prejudicial to his Majesty’s service.
Philip, who already began to suspect that a man who thought so much must be dangerous, was eager to find out the scheme over which William the Silent was supposed to be brooding, and wrote for fresh intelligence to the duchess. Neither Margaret nor the cardinal, however, could discover any thing against the prince—who, meantime, although disappointed of the mission to Frankfort, had gone to that city in his private capacity—saving that he had been heard to say, “One day we shall be the stronger.” Granvelle and Madame de Parma both communicated this report upon the same day, but this was all that they were able to discover of the latent plot.
In the autumn of this year (1562) Montigny made his visit to Spain, as confidential envoy from the regent. The king being fully prepared as to the manner in which he was to deal with him, received the ambassador with great cordiality. He informed him in the course of their interviews, that Granvelle had never attempted to create prejudice against the nobles, that he was incapable of the malice attributed to him, and that even were it otherwise, his evil representations against other public servants would produce no effect. The king furthermore protested that he had no intention of introducing the Spanish inquisition into the Netherlands, and that the new bishops were not intended as agents for such a design, but had been appointed solely with a view of smoothing religious difficulties in the provinces, and of leading his people back into the fold of the faithful. He added that as long ago as his visit to England for the purpose of espousing Queen Mary, he had entertained the project of the new episcopates, as the Marquis Berghen, with whom he had conversed freely upon the subject, could bear witness. With regard to the connection of Granvelle with the scheme, he assured Montigny that the cardinal had not been previously consulted, but had first learned the plan after the mission of Sonnius.
Such was the purport of the king’s communications to the envoy, as appears from memoranda in the royal handwriting and from the correspondence of Margaret of Parma. Philip’s exactness in conforming to his instructions is sufficiently apparent, on comparing his statements with the letters previously received from the omnipresent cardinal. Beyond the limits of those directions the king hardly hazarded a syllable. He was merely the plenipotentiary of the cardinal, as Montigny was of the regent. So long as Granvelle’s power lasted, he was absolute and infallible. Such, then, was the amount of satisfaction derived from the mission of Montigny. There was to be no diminution of the religious persecution, but the people were assured upon royal authority, that the inquisition, by which they were daily burned and beheaded, could not be logically denominated the Spanish inquisition. In addition to the comfort, whatever it might be, which the nation could derive from this statement, they were also consoled with the information that Granvelle was not the inventor of the bishoprics. Although he had violently supported the measure as soon as published, secretly denouncing as traitors and demagogues, all those who lifted their voices against it; although he was the originator of the renewed edicts; although he took, daily, personal pains that this Netherland inquisition, “more pitiless than the Spanish,” should be enforced in its rigor; and although he, at the last, opposed the slightest mitigation of its horrors, he was to be represented to the nobles and the people as a man of mild and unprejudiced character, incapable of injuring even his enemies. “I will deal with the seigniors most blandly,” the cardinal had written to Philip, “and will do them pleasure, even if they do not wish it, for the sake of God and your Majesty.”
It was in this light, accordingly, that Philip drew the picture of his favorite minister to the envoy. Montigny, although somewhat influenced by the king’s hypocritical assurances of the benignity with which he regarded the Netherlands, was, nevertheless, not to be deceived by this flattering portraiture of a man whom he knew so well and detested so cordially as he did Granvelle. Solicited by the king, at their parting interview, to express his candid opinion as to the causes of the dissatisfaction in the provinces, Montigny very frankly and most imprudently gave vent to his private animosity towards the cardinal. He spoke of his licentiousness, greediness, ostentation, despotism, and assured the monarch that nearly all the inhabitants of the Netherlands entertained the same opinion concerning him. He then dilated upon the general horror inspired by the inquisition and the great repugnance felt to the establishment of the new episcopates. These three evils, Granvelle, the inquisition, and the bishoprics, he maintained were the real and sufficient causes of the increasing popular discontent. Time was to reveal whether the open-hearted envoy was to escape punishment for his frankness, and whether vengeance for these crimes against Granvelle and Philip were to be left wholly, as the cardinal had lately suggested, in the hands of the Lord.
Montigny returned late in December. His report concerning the results of his mission was made in the state council, and was received with great indignation. The professions of benevolent intentions on the part of the sovereign made no impression on the mind of Orange, who was already in the habit of receiving secret information from Spain with regard to the intentions of the government. He knew very well that the plot revealed to him by Henry II in the wood of Vincennes was still the royal program, so far as the Spanish monarch was concerned. Moreover, his anger was heightened by information received from Montigny that the names of Orange, Egmont, and their adherents, were cited to him as he passed through France as the avowed defenders of the Huguenots, in politics and religion. The prince, who was still a sincere Catholic, while he hated the persecutions of the inquisition, was furious at the statement. A violent scene occurred in the council. Orange openly denounced the report as a new slander of Granvelle, while Margaret defended the cardinal and denied the accusation, but at the same time endeavored with the utmost earnestness to reconcile the conflicting parties.
It had now become certain, however, that the government could no longer be continued on its present footing. Either Granvelle or the seigniors must succumb. The Prince of Orange was resolved that the cardinal should fall or that he would himself withdraw from all participation in the affairs of government. In this decision he was sustained by Egmont, Horn, Montigny, Berghen, and the other leading nobles.
On the 11th of March, 1563, Orange, Horn, and Egmont united in a remarkable letter to the king. They said that as their longer “taciturnity” might cause the ruin of his Majesty’s affairs, they were at last compelled to break silence. They hoped that the king would receive with benignity a communication which was pure, frank, and free from all passion. The leading personages of the province, they continued, having thoroughly examined the nature and extent of Cardinal Granvelle’s authority, had arrived at the conclusion that everything was in his hands. This persuasion, they said, was rooted in the hearts of all his Majesty’s subjects, and particularly in their own, so deeply, that it could not be eradicated as long as the cardinal remained. The king was therefore implored to consider the necessity of remedying the evil. The royal affairs, it was affirmed, would never be successfully conducted so long as they were entrusted to Granvelle, because he was so odious to so many people. If the danger were not imminent, they should not feel obliged to write to his Majesty with so much vehemence. It was, however, an affair which allowed neither delay nor dissimulation. They therefore prayed the king, if they had ever deserved credence in things of weight, to believe them now. By so doing, his Majesty would avoid great mischief. Many grand seigniors, governors, and others, had thought it necessary to give this notice, in order that the king might prevent the ruin of the country. If, however, his Majesty were willing, as they hoped, to avoid discontenting all for the sake of satisfying one, it was possible that affairs might yet prosper. That they might not be thought influenced by ambition or by hope of private profit, the writers asked leave to retire from the state council. Neither their reputation, they said, nor the interests of the royal service would permit them to act with the cardinal. They professed themselves dutiful subjects and Catholic vassals. Had it not been for the zeal of the leading seigniors, the nobility, and other well-disposed persons, affairs would not at that moment be so tranquil; the common people having been so much injured, and the manner of life pursued by the cardinal not being calculated to give more satisfaction than was afforded by his unlimited authority. In conclusion, the writers begged his Majesty not to throw the blame upon them, if mischance should follow the neglect of this warning.
This memorable letter was signed by Guillaume de Nassau, Lamoral d’Egmont, and Philippes de Montmorency (Count Horn). It was dispatched under cover to Charles de Tisnacq, a Belgian, and procurator for the affairs of the Netherlands at Madrid, a man whose relations with Count Egmont were of a friendly character. It was impossible, however, to keep the matter a secret from the person most interested. The cardinal wrote to the king the day before the letter was written, and many weeks before it was sent, to apprize him that it was coming, and to instruct him as to the answer he was to make.
Nearly all the leading nobles and governors had adhered to the substance of the letter, save the Duke of Aerschot, Count Aremberg, and Baron Berlaymont. The duke and count had refused to join the league, violent scenes having occurred upon the subject between them and the leaders of the opposition party. Egmont, being with a large shooting party at Aerschot’s country place, Beaumont, had taken occasion to urge the duke to join in the general demonstration against the cardinal, arguing the matter in the rough, off-hand, reckless manner which was habitual with him. His arguments offended the nobleman thus addressed, who was vain and irascible. He replied by affirming that he was a friend to Egmont, but would not have him for his master. He would have nothing to do, he said, with their league against the cardinal, who had never given him cause of enmity. He had no disposition to dictate to the king as to his choice of ministers, and his Majesty was quite right to select his servants at his own pleasure. The duke added that if the seigniors did not wish him for a friend, it was a matter of indifference to him. Not one of them was his superior; he had as large a band of noble followers and friends as the best of them, and he had no disposition to accept the supremacy of any nobleman in the land. The conversation carried on in this key soon became a quarrel, and from words the two gentlemen would soon have come to blows, but for the interposition of Aremberg and Robles, who were present at the scene. The Duchess of Parma, narrating the occurrence to the king, added that a duel had been the expected result of the affair, but that the two nobles had eventually been reconciled. It was characteristic of Aerschot that he continued afterward to associate with the nobles upon friendly terms, while maintaining an increased intimacy with the cardinal.
The gentlemen who sent the letter were annoyed at the premature publicity which it seemed to have attained. Orange had in vain solicited Count Aremberg to join the league, and had quarrelled with him in consequence. Egmont, in the presence of Madame de Parma, openly charged Aremberg with having divulged the secret which had been confided to him. The count fiercely denied that he had uttered a syllable on the subject to a human being, but added that any communication on his part would have been quite superfluous, while Egmont and his friends were daily boasting of what they were to accomplish. Egmont reiterated the charge of a breach of faith by Aremberg. That nobleman replied by laying his hand upon his sword, denouncing as liars all persons who should dare to charge him again with such an offense, and offering to fight out the quarrel upon the instant. Here, again, personal combat was, with much difficulty, averted.
Egmont, rude, reckless, and indiscreet, was already making manifest that he was more at home on a battlefield than in a political controversy where prudence and knowledge of human nature were as requisite as courage. He was at this period more liberal in his sentiments than at any moment of his life. Inflamed by his hatred of Granvelle, and determined to compass the overthrow of that minister, he conversed freely with all kinds of people, sought popularity among the burghers, and descanted to everyone with much imprudence upon the necessity of union for the sake of liberty and the national good. The regent, while faithfully recording in her dispatches everything of this nature which reached her ears, expressed her astonishment at Egmont’s course, because, as she had often taken occasion to inform the king, she had always considered the count most sincerely attached to his Majesty’s servce.
Berlaymont, the only other noble of prominence who did not approve the 11th of March letter, was at this period attempting to “swim in two waters,” and, as usual in such cases, found it very difficult to keep himself afloat. He had refused to join the league, but he stood aloof from Granvelle. On a hope held out by the seigniors that his son should be made Bishop of Liege, he had ceased during a whole year from visiting the cardinal, and had never spoken to him at the council-board. Granvelle, in narrating these circumstances to the king, expressed the opinion that Berlaymont, by thus attempting to please both parties, had thoroughly discredited himself with both.
The famous epistle, although a most reasonable and manly statement of an incontrovertible fact, was nevertheless a document which it required much boldness to sign. The minister at that moment seemed omnipotent, and it was obvious that the king was determined upon a course of political and religious absolutism. It is, therefore, not surprising that, although many sustained its principles, few were willing to affix their names to a paper which might prove a death warrant to the signers. Even Montigny and Berghen, although they had been active in conducting the whole cabal, if cabal it could be called, refused to subscribe the letter. Egmont and Horn were men of reckless daring, but they were not keen-sighted enough to perceive fully the consequences of their acts. Orange was often accused by his enemies of timidity, but no man ever doubted his profound capacity to look quite through the deeds of men. His political foresight enabled him to measure the dangerous precipice which they were deliberately approaching, while the abyss might perhaps be shrouded to the vision of his companions. He was too tranquil of nature to be hurried, by passion, into a grave political step, which in cooler moments he might regret. He resolutely, therefore, and with his eyes open, placed himself in open and recorded enmity with the most powerful and dangerous man in the whole Spanish realm, and incurred the resentment of a king who never forgave. It may be safely averred that as much courage was requisite thus to confront a cold and malignant despotism, and to maintain afterwards, without flinching, during a whole lifetime, the cause of national rights and liberty of conscience, as to head the most brilliant charge of cavalry that ever made hero famous.
Philip answered the letter of the three nobles on the 6th of June following. In this reply, which was brief, he acknowledged the zeal and affection by which the writers had been actuated. He suggested, nevertheless, that, as they had mentioned no particular cause for adopting the advice contained in their letter, it would be better that one of them should come to Madrid to confer with him. Such matters, he said, could be better treated by word of mouth. He might thus receive sufficient information to enable him to form a decision, for, said he in conclusion, it was not his custom to aggrieve any of his ministers without cause.
This was a fine phrase, but under the circumstances of its application, quite ridiculous. There was no question of aggrieving the minister. The letter of the three nobles way very simple. It consisted of a fact and a deduction. This fact stated was that the cardinal was odious to all classes of the nation. The deduction drawn was that the government could no longer be carried on by him without imminent danger of ruinous convulsions. The fact was indisputable. The person most interested confirmed it in his private letters. “’Tis said,” wrote Granvelle to Philip, “that grandees, nobles, and people, all abhor me, nor am I surprised to find that grandees, nobles, and people are all openly against me, since each and all have been invited to join in the league.” The cardinal’s reasons for the existence of the unpopularity, which he admitted to the full, have no bearing upon the point in the letter. The fact was relied upon to sustain a simple, although a momentous inference. It was for Philip to decide upon the propriety of the deduction, and to abide by the consequences of his resolution when taken. As usual, however, the monarch was not capable of making up his mind. He knew very well that the cardinal was odious and infamous, because he was the willing impersonation of the royal policy. Philip was, therefore, logically called upon to abandon the policy or to sustain the minister. He could make up his mind to do neither the one nor the other. In the meantime, a well-turned period of mock magnanimity had been furnished him. This he accordingly transmitted as his first answer to a most important communication upon a subject which, in the words of the writers, “admitted neither of dissimulation nor delay.” To deprive Philip of dissimulation and delay, however, was to take away his all. They were the two weapons with which he fought his long life’s battle. They summed up the whole of his intellectual resources. It was inevitable, therefore, that he should at once have recourse to both on such an emergency as the present one.
At the same time that he sent his answer to the nobles, he wrote an explanatory letter to the regent. He informed her that he had received the communication of the three seigniors, but instructed her that she was to appear to know nothing of the matter until Egmont should speak to her upon the subject. He added that, although he had signified his wish to the three nobles, that one of them, without specifying which, should come to Madrid, he in reality desired that Egmont, who seemed the most tractable of the three, should be the one deputed. The king added that his object was to divide the nobles and to gain time.
It was certainly superfluous upon Philip’s part to inform his sister that his object was to gain time. Procrastination was always his first refuge, as if the march of the world’s events would pause indefinitely while he sat in his cabinet and pondered. It was, however, sufficiently puerile to recommend to his sister an affectation of ignorance on a subject concerning which nobles had wrangled, and almost drawn their swords in her presence. This, however, was the king’s statesmanship when left to his unaided exertions. Granvelle, who was both Philip and Margaret when either had to address or to respond to the world at large, did not always find it necessary to regulate the correspondence of his puppets between themselves. In order more fully to divide the nobles, the king also transmitted to Egmont a private note, in his own handwriting, expressing his desire that he should visit Spain in person, that they might confer together upon the whole subject.
These letters, as might be supposed, produced anything but a satisfactory effect. The discontent and rage of the gentlemen who had written or sustained the 11th of March communication, was much increased. The answer was, in truth, no answer at all. “’Tis a cold and bad reply,” wrote Louis of Nassau, “to send after so long a delay. ’Tis easy to see that the letter came from the cardinal’s smithy. In summâ, it is a vile business, if the gentlemen are all to be governed by one person. I hope to God his power will come soon to an end.” “Nevertheless,” added Louis, “the gentlemen are all wide awake, for they trust the red fellow not a bit more than he deserves.”
The duchess wrote immediately to inform her brother that Egmont had expressed himself willing enough to go to Spain, but had added that he must first consult Orange and Horn. As soon as that step had been taken, she had been informed that it was necessary for them to advise with all the gentlemen who had sanctioned their letter. The duchess had then tried in vain to prevent such an assembly, but finding that, even if forbidden, it would still take place, she had permitted the meeting in Brussels, as she could better penetrate into their proceedings there, than if it should be held at a distance. She added that she should soon send her secretary Armenteros to Spain, that the king might be thoroughly acquainted with what was occurring.
Egmont soon afterwards wrote to Philip, declining to visit Spain expressly on account of the cardinal. He added that he was ready to undertake the journey, should the king command his presence for any other object. The same decision was formally communicated to the regent by those Chevaliers of the Fleece who had approved the 11th of March letter—Montigny, Berghen, Meghem, Mansfeld, Ligne, Hoogstraaten, Orange, Egmont, and Horn. The Prince of Orange, speaking in the name of all, informed her that they did not consider it consistent with their reputation, nor with the interest of his Majesty, that any one of them should make so long and troublesome a journey, in order to accuse the cardinal. For any other purpose, they all held themselves ready to go to Spain at once. The duchess expressed her regret at this resolution. The prince replied by affirming that, in all their proceedings, they had been governed, not by hatred of Granvelle but by a sense of duty to his Majesty. It was now, he added, for the king to pursue what course it pleased him.
Four days after this interview with the regent, Orange, Egmont, and Horn addressed a second letter to the king. In this communication they stated that they had consulted with all the gentlemen with whose approbation their first letter had been written. As to the journey of one of them to Spain, as suggested, they pronounced it very dangerous for any seignior to absent himself, in the condition of affairs which then existed. It was not a sufficient cause to go thither on account of Granvelle. They disclaimed any intention of making themselves parties to a process against the cardinal. They had thought that their simple, brief announcement would have sufficed to induce his Majesty to employ that personage in other places, where his talents would be more fruitful. As to “aggrieving the cardinal without cause,” there was no question of aggrieving him at all, but of relieving him of an office which could not remain in his hands without disaster. As to “no particular cause having been mentioned,” they said the omission was from no lack of many such. They had charged none, however, because, from their past services and their fidelity to his Majesty, they expected to be believed on their honor, without further witnesses or evidence. They had no intention of making themselves accusers. They had purposely abstained from specifications. If his Majesty should proceed to ampler information, causes enough would be found. It was better, however, that they should be furnished by others than by themselves. His Majesty would then find that the public and general complaint was not without adequate motives. They renewed their prayer to be excused from serving in the council of state, in order that they might not be afterwards inculpated for the faults of others. Feeling that the controversy between themselves and the cardinal de Granvelle in the state council produced no fruit for his Majesty’s affairs, they preferred to yield to him. In conclusion, they begged the king to excuse the simplicity of their letters, the rather that they were not by nature great orators, but more accustomed to do well than to speak well, which was also more becoming to persons of their quality.
On the 4th of August, Count Horn also addressed a private letter to the king, written in the same spirit as that which characterized the joint letter just cited. He assured his Majesty that the cardinal could render no valuable service to the crown on account of the hatred which the whole nation bore him, but that, as far as regarded the maintenance of the ancient religion, all the nobles were willing to do their duty.
The regent now dispatched, according to promise, her private secretary, Thomas de Armenteros, to Spain. His instructions, which were very elaborate, showed that Granvelle was not mistaken when he charged her with being entirely changed in regard to him, and when he addressed her a reproachful letter, protesting his astonishment that his conduct had become suspicious, and his inability to divine the cause of the weariness and dissatisfaction which she manifested in regard to him.
Armenteros, a man of low, mercenary, and deceitful character, but a favorite of the regent, and already beginning to acquire that influence over her mind which was soon to become so predominant, was no friend of the cardinal. It was not probable that he would diminish the effect of that vague censure mingled with faint commendation, which characterized Margaret’s instructions by any laudatory suggestions of his own. He was directed to speak in general terms of the advance of heresy, and the increasing penury of the exchequer. He was to request 200,000 crowns toward the lottery, which the regent proposed to set up as a financial scheme. He was to represent that the Duchess had tried, unsuccessfully, every conceivable means of accommodating the quarrel between the cardinal and the seigniors. She recognized Granvelle’s great capacity, experience, zeal, and devotion—for all which qualities she made much of him—while on the other hand she felt that it would be a great inconvenience, and might cause a revolt of the country, were she to retain him in the Netherlands against the will of the seigniors. These motives had compelled her, the messenger was to add, to place both views of the subject before the eyes of the king. Armenteros was, furthermore, to narrate the circumstances of the interviews which had recently taken place between herself and the leaders of the opposition party.
From the tenor of these instructions, it was sufficiently obvious that Margaret of Parma was not anxious to retain the cardinal, but that, on the contrary, she was beginning already to feel alarm at the dangerous position in which she found herself. A few days after the three nobles had dispatched their last letter to the king, they had handed her a formal remonstrance. In this document they stated their conviction that the country was on the high road to ruin, both as regarded his Majesty’s service and the common weal. The exchequer was bare, the popular discontent daily increasing, the fortresses on the frontier in a dilapidated condition. It was to be apprehended daily that merchants and other inhabitants of the provinces would be arrested in foreign countries, to satisfy the debts owed by his Majesty. To provide against all these evils, but one course, it was suggested, remained to the government—to summon the states-general, and to rely upon their counsel and support. The nobles, however, forbore to press this point, by reason of the prohibition which the regent had received from the king. They suggested, however, that such an interdiction could have been dictated only by a distrust created between his Majesty and the estates by persons having no love for either, and who were determined to leave no resource by which the distress of the country could be prevented. The nobles, therefore, begged her highness not to take it amiss if, so long as the king was indisposed to make other arrangements for the administration of the provinces, they should abstain from appearing at the state council. They preferred to cause the shadow at last to disappear, which they had so long personated. In conclusion, however, they expressed their determination to do their duty in their several governments, and to serve the regent to the best of their abilities.
After this remonstrance had been delivered, the Prince of Orange, Count Horn, and Count Egmont abstained entirely from the sessions of the state council. She was left alone with the cardinal, whom she already hated, and with his two shadows, Viglius and Berlaymont.
Armenteros, after a month spent on his journey, arrived in Spain, and was soon admitted to an audience by Philip. In his first interview, which lasted four hours, he read to the king all the statements and documents with which he had come provided, and humbly requested a prompt decision. Such a result was of course out of the question. Moreover, the Cortes of Tarragon, which happened then to be in session, and which required the royal attention, supplied the monarch with a fresh excuse for indulging in his habitual vacillation.
Meantime, by way of obtaining additional counsel in so grave an emergency, he transmitted the letters of the nobles, together with the other papers, to the Duke of Alva, and requested his opinion on the subject. Alva replied with the roar of a wild beast.
“Every time,” he wrote, “that I see the dispatches of those three Flemish seigniors my rage is so much excited that if I did not use all possible efforts to restrain it, my sentiments would seem those of a madman.” After this splenitive exordium he proceeded to express the opinion that all the hatred and complaints against the cardinal had arisen from his opposition to the convocation of the states-general. With regard to persons who had so richly deserved such chastisement, he recommended “that their heads should be taken off; but, until this could be done, that the king should dissemble with them.” He advised Philip not to reply to their letters, but merely to intimate, through the regent, that their reasons for the course proposed by them did not seem satisfactory. He did not prescribe this treatment of the case as “a true remedy, but only as a palliative; because for the moment only weak medicines could be employed, from which, however, but small effect could be anticipated.” As to recalling the cardinal, “as they had the impudence to propose to his Majesty,” the Duke most decidedly advised against the step. In the meantime, and before it should be practicable to proceed “to that vigorous chastisement already indicated,” he advised separating the nobles as much as possible by administering flattery and deceitful caresses to Egmont, who might be entrapped more easily than the others.
Here, at least, was a man who knew his own mind. Here was a servant who could be relied upon to do his master’s bidding whenever this master should require his help. The vigorous explosion of wrath with which the duke thus responded to the first symptoms of what he regarded as rebellion, gave a feeble intimation of the tone which he would assume when that movement should have reached a more advanced stage. It might be guessed what kind of remedies he would one day prescribe in place of the “mild medicines’’ in which he so reluctantly acquiesced for the present.
While this had been the course pursued by the seigniors, the regent, and the king, in regard to that all-absorbing subject of Netherland politics—the struggle against Granvelle—the cardinal, in his letters to Philip, had been painting the situation by minute daily touches, in a manner of which his pencil alone possessed the secret.
Still maintaining the attitude of an injured but forgiving Christian, he spoke of the nobles in a tone of gentle sorrow. He deprecated any rising of the royal wrath in his behalf; he would continue to serve the gentlemen, whether they would or no; he was most anxious lest any considerations on his account should interfere with the king’s decision in regard to the course to be pursued in the Netherlands. At the same time, notwithstanding these general professions of benevolence towards the nobles, he represented them as broken spendthrifts, wishing to create general confusion in order to escape from personal liabilities, as conspirators who had placed themselves within the reach of the attorney-general, as ambitious malcontents who were disposed to overthrow the royal authority, and to substitute an aristocratic republic upon its ruins. He would say nothing to prejudice the king’s mind against these gentlemen, but he took care to omit nothing which could possibly accomplish that result. He described them as systematically opposed to the policy which he knew lay nearest the king’s heart, and as determined to assassinate the faithful minister who was so resolutely carrying it out, if his removal could be effected in no other way. He spoke of the state of religion as becoming more and more unsatisfactory, and bewailed the difficulty with which he could procure the burning of heretics, difficulties originating in the reluctance of men from whose elevated rank better things might have been expected.
As Granvelle is an important personage, as his character has been alternately the subject of much censure and of more applause, and as the epoch now described was the one in which the causes of the great convulsion were rapidly germinating, it is absolutely necessary that the reader should be placed in a position to study the main character, as painted by his own hand—the hand in which were placed, at that moment, the destinies of a mighty empire. It is the historian’s duty, therefore, to hang the picture of his administration fully in the light. At the moment when the 11th of March letter was dispatched, the cardinal represented Orange and Egmont as endeavoring by every method of menace or blandishment to induce all the grand seigniors and petty nobles to join in the league against himself. They had quarrelled with Aerschot and Aremberg, they had more than half seduced Berlaymont, and they stigmatized all who refused to enter into their league as cardinalists and familiars of the inquisition. He protested that he should regard their ill will with indifference, were he not convinced that he was himself only a pretext, and that their designs were really much deeper. Since the return of Montigny, the seigniors had established a league which that gentleman and his brother, Count Horn, had both joined. He would say nothing concerning the defamatory letters and pamphlets of which he was the constant object, for he wished no heed taken of matters which concerned exclusively himself; notwithstanding this disclaimer, however, he rarely omitted to note the appearance of all such productions for his Majesty’s especial information. “It was better to calm men’s spirits,” he said, “than to excite them.”
As to fostering quarrels among the seigniors, as the king had recommended, that was hardly necessary, for discord was fast sowing its own seeds. “It gave him much pain,” he said, with a Christian sigh, “to observe that such dissensions had already arisen, and unfortunately on his account.” He then proceeded circumstantially to describe the quarrel between Aerschot and Egmont, already narrated by the regent, omitting in his statement no particular which could make Egmont reprehensible in the royal eyes. He likewise painted the quarrel between the same noble and Aremberg, to which he had already alluded in previous letters to the king, adding that many gentlemen, and even the more prudent part of the people, were dissatisfied with the course of the grandees, and that he was taking underhand but dexterous means to confirm them in such sentiments. He instructed Philip how to reply to the letter addressed to him, but begged his Majesty not to hesitate to sacrifice him if the interests of his crown should seem to require it.
With regard to religious matters, he repeatedly deplored that, notwithstanding his own exertions and those of Madame de Parma, things were not going on as he desired, but, on the contrary, very badly. “For the love of God and the service of the holy religion,” he cried out fervently, “put your royal hand valiantly to the work, otherwise we have only to exclaim, ‘Help, Lord, for we perish!’” Having uttered this pious exhortation in the ear of a man who needed no stimulant in the path of persecution, he proceeded to express his regrets that the judges and other officers were not taking in hand the chastisement of heresy with becoming vigor.
Yet, at that very moment Peter Titelmann was raging through Flanders, tearing whole families out of bed and burning them to ashes, with such utter disregard to all laws or forms as to provoke in the very next year a solemn protest from the four estates of Flanders; and Titelmann was but one of a dozen inquisitors.
Granvelle, however, could find little satisfaction in the exertions of subordinates so long as men in high station were remiss in their duties. The Marquis Berghen, he informed Philip, showed but little disposition to put down heresy in Valenciennes, while Montigny was equally remiss at Tournay. They were often heard to say, to any who chose to listen, that it was not right to inflict the punishment of death for matters of religion. This sentiment, uttered in that age of blood and fire, and crowning the memory of those unfortunate nobles with eternal honor, was denounced by the churchman as criminal, and deserving of castigation. He intimated, moreover, that these pretences of clemency were mere hypocrisy, and that self-interest was at the bottom of their compassion. “’Tis very black,” said he, “when interest governs; but these men are all in debt, so deeply that they owe their very souls. They are seeking every means of escaping from their obligations, and are most desirous of creating general confusion.” As to the Prince of Orange, the cardinal asserted that he owed 900,000 florins, and had hardly 25,000 a year clear income, while he spent 90,000, having counts, barons, and gentlemen in great numbers, in his household. At this point, he suggested that it might be well to find employment for some of these grandees in Spain and other dominions of his Majesty, adding that perhaps Orange might accept the viceroyalty of Sicily.
Resuming the religious matter, a few weeks later, he expressed himself a little more cheerfully. “We have made so much outcry,” said he, “that at last Marquis Berghen has been forced to burn a couple of heretics at Valenciennes. Thus, it is obvious,” moralized the cardinal, “that if he were really willing to apply the remedy in that place, much progress might be made; but that we can do but little so long as he remains in the government of the provinces and refuses to assist us.” In a subsequent letter, he again uttered complaints against the marquis and Montigny, who were evermore his scapegoats and bugbears. “Berghen will give us no aid,” he wrote, “despite of all the letters we send him. He absents himself for private and political reasons. Montigny has eaten meat in Lent, as the bishop of Tournay informs me. Both he and the Marquis say openly that it is not right to shed blood for matters of faith, so that the king can judge how much can be effected with such coadjutors.” “Berghen avoids the persecution of heretics,” wrote the cardinal again, a month later, to Secretary Perez. “He has gone to Spa for his health although those who saw him last say he is fat and hearty.” Granvelle added, however, that they had at last “burned one more preacher alive.” The heretic, he stated, had feigned repentance to save his life, but finding that, at any rate, his head would be cut off as a dogmatizer, he retracted his recantation. “So,” concluded the cardinal, complacently, “they burned him.”
He chronicled the sayings and doings of the principal personages in the Netherlands, for the instruction of the king, with great regularity, insinuating suspicions when unable to furnish evidence, and adding charitable apologies, which he knew would have but small effect upon the mind of his correspondent. Thus he sent an account of a “very secret meeting” held by Orange, Egmont, Horn, Montigny and Berghen, at the abbey of La Forest, near Brussels, adding that he did not know what they had been doing there, and was at loss what to suspect. He would be most happy, he said, to put the best interpretation upon their actions, but he could not help remembering with great sorrow the observation so recently made by Orange to Montigny, that one day they should be stronger. Later in the year, the cardinal informed the king that the same nobles were holding a conference at Weerdt, that he had not learned what had been transacted there, but thought the affair very suspicious. Philip immediately communicated the intelligence to Alva, together with an expression of Granvelle’s fears and of his own, that a popular outbreak would be the consequence of the continued presence of the minister in the Netherlands.
The cardinal omitted nothing in the way of anecdote or innuendo, which could injure the character of the leading nobles, with the exception, perhaps, of Count Egmont. With this important personage, whose character he well understood, he seemed determined, if possible, to maintain friendly relations. There was a deep policy in this desire, to which we shall advert hereafter. The other seigniors were described in general terms as disposed to overthrow the royal authority. They were bent upon Granvelle’s downfall as the first step, because, that being accomplished, the rest would follow as a matter of course. “They intend,” said he, “to reduce the state into the form of a republic, in which the king shall have no power except to do their bidding.” He added that he saw with regret so many German troops gathering on the borders, for he believed them to be in the control of the disaffected nobles of the Netherlands. Having made this grave insinuation, he proceeded in the same breath to express his anger at a statement said to have been made by Orange and Egmont, to the effect that he had charged them with intending to excite a civil commotion, an idea, he added, which had never entered his head. In the same paragraph, he poured into the most suspicious ear that ever listened to a tale of treason, his conviction that the nobles were planning a republic by the aid of foreign troops, and uttered a complaint that these nobles had accused him of suspecting them. As for the Prince of Orange, he was described as eternally boasting of his influence in Germany, and the great things which he could effect by means of his connexions there, “so that,” added the cardinal, “we hear no other song.”
He had much to say concerning the projects of these grandees to abolish all the councils, but that of state, of which body they intended to obtain the entire control. Marquis Berghea was represented as being at the bottom of all these intrigues. The general and evident intention was to make a thorough change in the form of government. The Marquis meant to command in every thing, and the duchess would soon have nothing to do in the provinces as regent for the king. In fact, Philip himself would be equally powerless, “for,” said the cardinal, “they will have succeeded in putting your Majesty completely under guardianship.” He added, moreover, that the seigniors, in order to gain favor with the people and with the estates, had allowed them to acquire so much power, that they would respond to any request for subsidies by a general popular revolt. “This is the simple truth,” said Granvelle, “and moreover, by the same process, in a very few days there will likewise be no religion left in the land.” When the deputies of some of the states, a few weeks later, had been irregularly convened in Brussels, for financial purposes, the cardinal informed the monarch that the nobles were endeavoring to conciliate their good will, by offering them a splendid series of festivities and banquets.
He related various anecdotes which came to his ears from time to time, all tending to excite suspicions as to the loyalty and orthodoxy of the principal nobles. A gentleman coming from Burgundy had lately, as he informed the king, been dining with the Prince of Orange, with whom Horn and Montigny were then lodging. At table, Montigny called out in a very loud voice to the strange cavalier, who was seated at a great distance from him, to ask if there were many Huguenots in Burgundy. No, replied the gentleman, nor would they be permitted to exist there. Then there can be very few people of intelligence in that province, returned Montigny, for those who have any wit are mostly all Huguenots. The Prince of Orange here endeavored to put a stop to the conversation, saying that the Burgundians were very right to remain as they were; upon which Montigny affirmed that he had heard masses enough lately to last him for three months. These things may be jests, commented Granvelle, but they are very bad ones; and ’tis evident that such a man is an improper instrument to remedy the state of religious affairs in Tournay.
At another large party, the king was faithfully informed by the same chronicler, that Marquis Berghen had been teasing the Duke of Aerschot very maliciously, because he would not join the league. The duke had responded as he had formerly done to Egmont, that his Majesty was not to receive laws from his vassals, adding that, for himself, he meant to follow in the loyal track of his ancestors, fearing God and honoring the king. In short, said Granvelle, he answered them with so much wisdom, that although they had never a high opinion of his capacity, they were silenced. This conversation had been going on before all the servants, the Marquis being especially vociferous, although the room was quite full of them. As soon as the cloth was removed, and while some of the lackies still remained, Berghen had resumed the conversation. He said he was of the same mind as his ancestor, John of Berghen, had been, who had once told the king’s grandfather, Philip the Fair, that if his Majesty was bent on his own perdition, he had no disposition to ruin himself. If the present monarch means to lose these provinces by governing them as he did govern them, the marquis affirmed that he had no wish to lose the little property that he himself possessed in the country. “But if,” argued the Duke of Aerschot, “the king absolutely refuse to do what you demand of him, what then?” “Par la cordieu!” responded Berghen, in a rage, “we will let him see!” whereupon all became silent.
Granvelle implored the king to keep these things entirely to himself; adding that it was quite necessary for his Majesty to learn in this manner what were the real dispositions of the gentlemen of the provinces. It was also stated in the same letter, that a ruffian Genoese, who had been ordered out of the Netherlands by the regent, because of a homicide he had committed, was kept at Weert, by Count Horn, for the purpose of murdering the cardinal.
He affirmed that he was not allowed to request the expulsion of the assassin from the count’s house, but that he would take care, nevertheless, that neither this ruffian nor any other, should accomplish his purpose. A few weeks afterwards, expressing his joy at the contradiction of a report that Philip had himself been assassinated, Granvelle added, “I too, who am but a worm in comparison, am threatened on so many sides, that many must consider me already dead. Nevertheless, I will endeavor, with God’s help, to live as long as I can, and if they kill me, I hope they will not gain every thing.” Yet, with characteristic Jesuitism, the cardinal could not refrain, even in the very letter in which he detailed the rebellious demonstrations of Berghen, and the murderous schemes of Horn, to protest that he did not say these things “to prejudice his Majesty against anyone, but only that it might be known to what a height the impudence was rising.” Certainly the king and the ecclesiastic, like the Roman soothsayers, would have laughed in each other’s face, could they have met, over the hollowness of such demonstrations. Granvelle’s letters were filled, for the greater part, with pictures of treason, stratagem, and bloody intentions, fabricated mostly out of reports, table-talk, disjointed chat in the careless freedom of domestic intercourse, while at the same time a margin was always left to empress his own wounded sense of the injurious suspicions uttered against him by the various subjects of his letters. “God knows,” said he to Perez, “that I always speak of them with respect, which is more than they do of me. But God forgive them all. In times like these, one must hold one’s tongue. One must keep still, in order not to stir up a hornet’s nest.”
In short, the cardinal, little by little, during the last year of his residence in the Netherlands, was enabled to spread a canvas before his sovereign’s eye, in which certain prominent figures, highly colored by patiently accumulated touches, were represented as driving a whole nation, against its own will, into manifest revolt. The estates and the people, he said, were already tired of the proceedings of the nobles, and those personages would find themselves very much mistaken in thinking that men who had anything to lose would follow them, when they began a rebellion against his Majesty. On the whole, he was not desirous of prolonging his own residence, although, to do him justice, he was not influenced by fear. He thought or affected to think that the situation was one of a factitious popular discontent, procured by the intrigues of a few ambitious and impoverished Catilines and Cethegi, not a rising rebellion such as the world had never seen, born of the slowly-awakened wrath of a whole people, after the martyrdom of many years. The remedy that he recommended was that his Majesty should come in person to the provinces. The monarch would cure the whole disorder as soon as he appeared, said the cardinal, by merely making the sign of the cross. Whether, indeed, the rapidly-increasing cancer of national discontent would prove a mere king’s evil, to be healed by the royal touch, as many persons besides Granvelle believed, was a point not doomed to be tested. From that day forward Philip began to hold out hopes that he would come to administer the desired remedy, but even then it was the opinion of good judges that he would give millions rather than make his appearance in the Netherlands. It was even the hope of William of Orange that the king would visit the provinces. He expressed his desire, in a letter to Lazarus Schwendi, that his sovereign should come in person, that he might see whether it had been right to sow so much distrust between himself and his loyal subjects. The prince asserted that it was impossible for any person not on the spot to imagine the falsehoods and calumnies circulated by Granvelle and his friends, accusing Orange and his associates of rebellion and heresy, in the most infamous manner in the world. He added, in conclusion, that he could write no more, for the mere thought of the manner in which the government of the Netherlands was carried on filled him with disgust and rage.
This letter, together with one in a similar strain from Egmont, was transmitted by the valiant and highly intellectual soldier to whom they were addressed, to the king of Spain, with an entreaty that he would take warning from the bitter truths which they contained. The colonel, who was a most trusty friend of Orange, wrote afterwards to Margaret of Parma in the same spirit, warmly urging her to moderation in religious matters. This application highly enraged Morillon, the cardinal’s most confidential dependent, who accordingly conveyed the intelligence to his already departed chief, exclaiming in his letter, “what does the ungrateful baboon mean by meddling with our affairs? pretty state of things, truly, if kings are to choose or retain their ministers at the will of the people; little does he know of the disasters which would be caused by a relaxation of the edicts.” In the same sense, the cardinal, just before his departure, which was now imminent, wrote to warn his sovereign of the seditious character of the men who were then placing their breasts between the people and their butchers. He assured Philip that upon the movement of those nobles depended the whole existence of the country. It was time that they should be made to open their eyes. They should be solicited in every way to abandon their evil courses, since the liberty which they thought themselves defending was but abject slavery, but subjection to a thousand base and contemptible personages, and to that “vile animal called the people.”
It is sufficiently obvious, from the picture which we have now presented of the respective attitudes of Granvelle, of the seigniors and of the nation, during the whole of the year 1563, and the beginning of the following year, that a crisis was fast approaching. Granvelle was, for the moment, triumphant, Orange, Egmont, and Horn had abandoned the state council, Philip could not yet make up his mind to yield to the storm, and Alva howled defiance at the nobles and the whole people of the Netherlands. Nevertheless, Margaret of Parma was utterly weary of the minister, the cardinal himself was most anxious to be gone, and the nation—for there was a nation, however vile the animal might be—was becoming daily more enraged at the presence of a man in whom, whether justly or falsely, it beheld the incarnation of the religious oppression under which they groaned. Meantime, at the close of the year, a new incident came to add to the gravity of the situation. Caspar Schetz, Baron of Grobbendonck, gave a great dinner party, in the month of December, 1563. This personage, whose name was prominent for many years in the public affairs of the nation, was one of the four brothers who formed a very opulent and influential mercantile establishment. He was the king’s principal factor and financial agent. He was one of the great pillars of the Bourse at Antwerp. He was likewise a tolerable scholar, a detestable poet, an intriguing politician, and a corrupt financier. He was regularly in the pay of Sir Thomas Gresham, to whom he furnished secret information, for whom he procured differential favors, and by whose government he was rewarded by gold chains and presents of hard cash, bestowed as secretly as the equivalent was conveyed adroitly. Nevertheless, although his venality was already more than suspected, and although his peculations during his long career became so extensive that he was eventually prosecuted by government, and died before the process was terminated, the lord of Grobbendonch was often employed in most delicate negotiations, and, at the present epoch, was a man of much importance in the Netherlands.
The treasurer-general accordingly gave his memorable banquet to a distinguished party of noblemen. The conversation, during dinner, turned, as was inevitable, upon the cardinal. His ostentation, greediness, insolence, were fully canvassed. The wine flowed freely as it always did in those Flemish festivities; the brains of the proud and reckless cavaliers became hot with excitement, while still the odious ecclesiastic was the topic of their conversation, the object alternately of fierce invective or of scornful mirth. The pompous display which he affected in his equipages, liveries, and all the appurtenances of his household, had frequently excited their derision, and now afforded fresh matter for their ridicule. The customs of Germany, the simple habiliments in which the retainers of the greatest houses were arrayed in that country, were contrasted with the tinsel and glitter in which the prelate pranked himself. It was proposed, by way of showing contempt for Granvelle, that a livery should be forthwith invented, as different as possible from his in general effect, and that all the gentlemen present should indiscriminately adopt it for their own menials. Thus would the people whom the cardinal wished to dazzle with his finery learn to estimate such gauds at their true value. It was determined that something extremely plain, and in the German fashion, should be selected. At the same time, the company, now thoroughly inflamed with wine, and possessed by the spirit of mockery, determined that a symbol should be added to the livery, by which the universal contempt for Granvelle should be expressed. The proposition was hailed with acclamation, but who should invent the hieroglyphical costume? All were reckless and ready enough, but ingenuity of device was required. At last it was determined to decide the question by hazard. Amid shouts of hilarity, the dice were thrown. Those men were staking their lives, perhaps, upon the issue, but the reflection gave only a keener zest to the game. Egmont won. It was the most fatal victory which he had ever achieved, a more deadly prize even than the trophies of St. Quentin and Gravelingen.
In a few days afterwards, the retainers of the house of Egmont surprised Brussels by making their appearance in a new livery. Doublet and hose of the coarsest grey, and long hanging sleeves, without gold or silver lace, and having but a single ornament, comprised the whole costume. An emblem which seemed to resemble a monk’s cowl, or a fool’s cap and bells, was embroidered upon each sleeve. The device pointed at the cardinal, as did, by contrast, the affected coarseness of the dress. There was no doubt as to the meaning of the hood, but they who saw in the symbol more resemblance to the jester’s cap, recalled certain biting expressions which Granvelle had been accustomed to use. He had been wont, in the days of his greatest insolence, to speak of the most eminent nobles as zanies, lunatics, and buffoons. The embroidered fool’s cap was supposed to typify the gibe, and to remind the arrogant priest that a Brutus, as in the olden time, might be found lurking in the costume of the fool. However witty or appropriate the invention, the livery had an immense success. According to agreement, the nobles who had dined with the treasurer ordered it for all their servants. Never did a new dress become so soon the fashion.
The unpopularity of the minister assisted the quaintness of the device. The fool’s-cap livery became the rage. Never was such a run upon the haberdashers, mercers, and tailors, since Brussels had been a city. All the frieze-cloth in Brabant was exhausted. All the serge in Flanders was clipped into monastic cowls. The duchess at first laughed with the rest, but the cardinal took care that the king should be at once informed upon the subject. The regent was, perhaps, not extremely sorry to see the man ridiculed whom she so cordially disliked, and she accepted the careless excuses made on the subject by Egmont and by Orange without severe criticism. She wrote to her brother that, although the gentlemen had been influenced by no evil intention, she had thought it best to exhort them not to push the jest too far. Already, however, she found that two thousand pairs of sleeves had been made, and the most she could obtain was that the fools’ caps, or monks’ hoods, should in the future be omitted from the livery. A change was accordingly made in the costume, at about the time of the cardinal’s departure. A bundle of arrows, or in some instances a wheat-sheaf, was substituted for the cowls. Various interpretations were placed upon this new emblem. According to the nobles themselves, it denoted the union of all their hearts in the king’s service, while their enemies insinuated that it was obviously a symbol of conspiracy. The costume thus amended was worn by the gentlemen themselves, as well as by their servants. Egmont dined at the regent’s table, after the cardinal’s departure, in a camlet doublet, with hanging sleeves, and buttons stamped with the bundle of arrows.
For the present, the cardinal affected to disapprove of the fashion only from its rebellious tendency. The fools’ caps and cowls, he meekly observed to Philip, were the least part of the offense, for an injury to himself could be easily forgiven. The wheat-sheaf and the arrow-bundles, however, were very vile things, for they betokened and confirmed the existence of a conspiracy, such as never could be tolerated by a prince who had any regard for his own authority.
This incident of the livery occupied the public attention, and inflamed the universal hatred during the later months of the minister’s residence in the country. Meantime the three seigniors had become very impatient at receiving no answer to their letter. Margaret of Parma was urging her brother to give them satisfaction, repeating to him their bitter complaints that their characters and conduct were the subject of constant misrepresentation to their sovereign, and picturing her own isolated condition. She represented herself as entirely deprived of the support of those great personages, who, despite her positive assurances to the contrary, persisted in believing that they were held up to the king as conspirators, and were in danger of being punished as traitors. Philip, on his part, was conning Granvelle’s dispatches, filled with hints of conspiracy, and holding counsel with Alva, who had already recommended the taking off several heads for treason. The Prince of Orange, who already had secret agents in the king’s household, and was supplied with copies of the most private papers in the palace, knew better than to be deceived by the smooth representations of the regent. Philip had, however, at last begun secretly to yield. He asked Alva’s advice, whether on the whole it would not be better to let the cardinal leave the Netherlands, at least for a time, on pretense of visiting his mother in Burgundy, and to invite Count Egmont to Madrid, by way of striking one link from the chain, as Granvelle had suggested. The duke had replied that he had no doubt of the increasing insolence of the three seigniors, as depicted in the letters of the Duchess Margaret, nor of their intention to make the cardinal their first victim, it being the regular principle in all revolts against the sovereign to attack the chief minister in the first place. He could not, however, persuade himself that the king should yield and Granvelle be recalled. Nevertheless, if it were to be done at all, he preferred that the cardinal should go to Burgundy without leave asked either of the duchess or of Philip, and that he should then write, declining to return, on the ground that his life was not safe in the Netherlands.
After much hesitation, the monarch at last settled upon a plan, which recommended itself through the extreme duplicity by which it was marked, and the complicated system of small deceptions, which it consequently required. The king, who was never so thoroughly happy or at home as when elaborating the ingredients of a composite falsehood, now busily employed himself in his cabinet. He measured off in various letters to the regent, to the three nobles, to Egmont alone, and to Granvelle, certain proportionate parts of his whole plan, which, taken separately, were intended to deceive, and did deceive nearly every person in the world, not only in his own generation, but for three centuries afterwards, but which arranged synthetically, as can now be done, in consequence of modern revelations, formed one complete and considerable lie, the observation of which furnishes the student with a lesson in the political chemistry of those days, which was called Machiavellian statesmanship. The termination of the Granvelle regency is, moreover, most important, not only for the grave and almost interminable results to which it led, but for the illustration which it affords of the inmost characters of the cardinal and “his master.”
The courier who was to take Philip’s letters to the three nobles was detained three weeks, in order to allow Armenteros, who was charged with the more important and secret dispatches for the duchess and Granvelle to reach Brussels first. All the letters, however, were ready at the same time. The letter of instructions for Armenteros enjoined upon that envoy to tell the regent that the heretics were to be chastised with renewed vigor, that she was to refuse to convoke the states-general under any pretext, and that if hard pressed, she was to refer directly to the king. With regard to Granvelle, the secretary was to state that his Majesty was still deliberating, and that the duchess would be informed as to the decision when it should be made. He was to express the royal astonishment that the seigniors should absent themselves from the state council, with a peremptory intimation that they should immediately return to their posts. As they had specified no particularities against the cardinal, the king would still reflect upon the subject.
He also wrote a private note to the duchess, stating that he had not yet sent the letters for the three nobles, because he wished that Armenteros should arrive before their courier. He, however, enclosed two notes for Egmont, of which Margaret was to deliver that one, which, in her opinion, was, under the circumstances, the best. In one of these missives the king cordially accepted, and in the other he politely declined Egmont’s recent offer to visit Spain. He also forwarded a private letter in his own handwriting to the cardinal. Armenteros, who traveled but slowly on account of the state of his health, arrived in Brussels towards the end of February. Five or six days afterwards, on the 1st of March, namely, the courier arrived bringing the dispatches for the seigniors. In his letter to Orange, Egmont, and Horn, the king expressed his astonishment at their resolution to abstain from the state council. “Nevertheless,” said he, imperatively, “fail not to return thither and to show how much more highly you regard my service and the good of the country than any other particularity whatever.” “As to Granvelle,” continued Philip, “since you will not make any specifications, my intention is to think over the matter longer, in order to arrange it as may seem most fitting.”
This letter was dated February 19 (1564), nearly a month later therefore than the secret letter to Granvelle, brought by Armenteros, although all the dispatches had been drawn up at the same time and formed parts of the same plan. In this brief note to Granvelle, however, lay the heart of the whole mystery.
“I have reflected much,” wrote the king, “on all that you have written me during these last few months, concerning the ill-will borne you by certain personages. I notice also your suspicions that if a revolt breaks out, they will commence with your person, thus taking occasion to proceed from that point to the accomplishment of their ulterior designs. I have particularly taken into consideration the notice received by you from the curate of Saint Gudule, as well as that which you have learned concerning the Genoese who is kept at Weert; all which has given me much anxiety as well from my desire for the preservation of your life, in which my service is so deeply interested, as for the possible results if any thing should happen to you, which God forbid. I have thought, therefore, that it would be well, in order to give time and breathing space to the hatred and rancor which those persons entertain towards you, and in order to see what course they will take in preparing the necessary remedy for the provinces, for you to leave the country for some days, in order to visit your mother, and this with the knowledge of the duchess, my sister, and with her permission, which you will request, and which I have written to her that she must give, without allowing it to appear that you have received orders to that effect from me. You will also beg her to write to me requesting my approbation of what she is to do. By taking this course neither my authority nor yours will suffer prejudice; and according to the turn which things may take, measures may be taken for your return when expedient, and for whatever else there may be to arrange.”
Thus, in two words, Philip removed the unpopular minister forever. The limitation of his absence had no meaning, and was intended to have none. If there were not strength enough to keep the cardinal in his place, it was not probable that the more difficult task of reinstating him after his fall would be very soon attempted. It seemed, however, to be dealing more tenderly with Granvelle’s self-respect thus to leave a vague opening for a possible return, than to send him an unconditional dismissal.
Thus, while the king refused to give any weight to the representations of the nobles, and affected to be still deliberating whether or not he should recall the cardinal, he had in reality already recalled him. All the minute directions according to which permission was to be asked of the duchess to take a step which had already been prescribed by the monarch, and Philip’s indulgence craved for obeying his own explicit injunctions, were fulfilled to the letter.
As soon as the cardinal received the royal order, he privately made preparations for his departure. The regent, on the other hand, delivered to Count Egmont the one of Philip’s two letters in which that gentleman’s visit was declined, the duchess believing that, in the present position of affairs, she should derive more assistance from him than from the rest of the seigniors. As Granvelle, however, still delayed his departure, even after the arrival of the second courier, she was again placed in a situation of much perplexity. The three nobles considered Philip’s letter to them extremely “dry and laconic,” and Orange absolutely refused to comply with the order to re-enter the state council. At a session of that body, on the 3rd of March, where only Granvelle, Viglius, and Berlaymont were present, Margaret narrated her fruitless attempts to persuade the seigniors into obedience to the royal orders lately transmitted, and asked their opinions. The extraordinary advice was then given, that “she should let them champ the bit a little while longer, and afterwards see what was to be done.” Even at the last moment, the cardinal, reluctant to acknowledge himself beaten, although secretly desirous to retire, was inclined for a parting struggle. The duchess, however, being now armed with the king’s express commands, and having had enough of holding the reins while such powerful and restive personages were “champing the bit,” insisted privately that the cardinal should make his immediate departure known.
Pasquinades and pamphlets were already appearing daily, each more bitter than the other; the livery was spreading rapidly through all classes of people, and the seigniors most distinctly refused to recede from their determination of absenting themselves from the council so long as Granvelle remained. There was no help for it, and on the 13th of March the cardinal took his departure. Notwithstanding the mystery of the whole proceeding, however, William of Orange was not deceived. He felt certain that the minister had been recalled, and thought it highly improbable that he would ever be permitted to return. “Although the cardinal talks of coming back again soon,” wrote the prince to Schwartzburg, “we nevertheless hope that, as he lied about his departure, so he will also spare the truth in his present assertions.” This was the general conviction, so far as the question of the minister’s compulsory retreat was concerned, of all those who were in the habit of receiving their information and their opinions from the Prince of Orange. Many even thought that Granvelle had been recalled with indignity and much against his will. “When the cardinal,” wrote Secretary Lorich to Count Louis, “received the king’s order to go, he growled like a bear, and kept himself alone in his chamber for a time, making his preparations for departure. He says he shall come back in two months, but some of us think they will be two long months which will eat themselves up like money borrowed of the Jews.” A wag, moreover, posted a large placard upon the door of Granvelle’s palace in Brussels as soon as the minister’s departure was known, with the inscription, in large letters, “For sale, immediately.” In spite of the royal ingenuity, therefore, many shrewdly suspected the real state of the case, although but very few actually knew the truth.
The cardinal left Brussels with a numerous suite, stately equipages, and much parade. The duchess provided him with her own mules and with a sufficient escort, for the king had expressly enjoined that every care should be taken against any murderous attack. There was no fear of such assault, however, for all were sufficiently satisfied to see the minister depart. Brederode and Count Hoogstraaten were standing together, looking from the window of a house near the gate of Caudenberg, to feast their eyes with the spectacle of their enemy’s retreat. As soon as the cardinal had passed through that gate, on his way to Namur, the first stage of his journey, they rushed into the street, got both upon one horse, Hoogstraaten, who alone had boots on his legs, taking the saddle and Brederode the croup, and galloped after the cardinal, with the exultation of schoolboys. Thus mounted, they continued to escort the cardinal on his journey. At one time, they were so near his carriage, while it was passing through a ravine, that they might have spoken to him from the heights above, where they had paused to observe him; but they pulled the capes of their cloaks over their faces and suffered him to pass unchallenged. “But they are young folk,” said the cardinal, benignantly, after relating all these particulars to the duchess, “and one should pay little regard to their actions.” He added that one of Egmont’s gentlemen dogged their party on the journey, lodging in the same inns with them, apparently in the hope of learning something from their conversation or proceedings. If that were the man’s object, however, Granvelle expressed the conviction that he was disappointed, as nothing could have been more merry than the whole company, or more discreet than their conversation.
The cardinal began at once to put into operation the system of deception, as to his departure, which had been planned by Philip. The man who had been ordered to leave the Netherlands by the king, and pushed into immediate compliance with the royal command by the duchess, proceeded to address letters both to Philip and Margaret. He wrote from Namur to beg the regent that she would not fail to implore his Majesty graciously to excuse his having absented himself for private reasons at that particular moment. He wrote to Philip from Besangon, stating that his desire to visit his mother, whom he had not seen for nineteen years, and his natal soil, to which he had been a stranger during the same period, had induced him to take advantage of his brother’s journey to accompany him for a few days into Burgundy. He had, therefore, he said, obtained the necessary permission from the duchess, who had kindly promised to write very particularly by the first courier, to beg his Majesty’s approval of the liberty which they had both taken. He wrote from the same place to the regent again, saying that some of the nobles pretended to have learned from Armenteros that the king had ordered the cardinal to leave the country and not to return, all which, he added, was a very false Renardesque invention, at which he did nothing but laugh.
As a matter of course, his brother, in whose company he was about to visit the mother whom he had not seen for the past nineteen years, was as much mystified as the rest of the world. Chantonnay was not aware that anything but the alleged motives had occasioned the journey, nor did he know that his brother would perhaps have omitted to visit their common parent for nineteen years longer had he not received the royal order to leave the Netherlands.
Philip, on the other side, had sustained his part in the farce with much ability. Viglius, Berlaymont, Morillon, and all the lesser cardinalists were entirely taken in by the letters which were formally dispatched to the duchess in reply to her own and the cardinal’s notification. “I can not take it amiss,” wrote the king, “that you have given leave of absence to Cardinal de Granvelle, for two or three months, according to the advices just received from you, that he may attend to some private affairs of his own.” As soon as these letters had been read in the council, Viglius faithfully transmitted them to Granvelle for that personage’s enlightenment, adding his own innocent reflection, that “this was very different language from that held by some people, that your most illustrious lordship had retired by order of his Majesty.” Morillon also sent the cardinal a copy of the same passage in the royal dispatch, saving, very wisely, “I wonder what they will all say now, since these letters have been read in council.” The duchess, as in duty bound, denied flatly, on all occasions, that Armenteros had brought any letters recommending or ordering the minister’s retreat. She conscientiously displayed the letters of his Majesty, proving the contrary, and yet, said Viglius, it was very hard to prevent people talking as they liked.
Granvelle omitted no occasion to mystify everyone of his correspondents on the subject, referring, of course, to the same royal letters which had been written for public reading, expressly to corroborate these statements. “You see by his Majesty’s letters to Madame de Parma,” said he to Morillon, “how false is the report that the king had ordered me to leave Flanders, and in what confusion those persons find themselves who fabricated the story.” It followed of necessity that he should carry out his part in the royal program, but he accomplished his task so adroitly, and with such redundancy of zeal, as to show his thorough sympathy with the king’s policy. He dissembled with better grace, even if the king did it more naturally. Nobody was too insignificant to be deceived, nobody too august. Emperor Ferdinand fared no better than “Esquire” Bordey. “Some of those who hate me,” he wrote to the potentate, “have circulated the report that I had been turned out of the country, and was never to return. This story has ended in smoke, since the letters written by his Majesty to the Duchess of Parma on the subject of the leave of absence which she had given me.”
Philip himself addressed a private letter to Granvelle, of course that others might see it, in which he affected to have just learned that the cardinal had obtained permission from the regent “to make a visit to his mother, in order to arrange certain family matters,” and gravely gave his approbation to the step. At the same time it was not possible for the king to resist the temptation of adding one other stroke of dissimulation to his own share in the comedy. Granvelle and Philip had deceived all the world, but Philip also deceived Granvelle. The cardinal made a mystery of his departure to Pollwiller, Viglius, Morillon, to the Emperor, to his own brother, and also to the king’s secretary, Gonzalo Perez; but he was not aware that Perez, whom he thought himself deceiving as ingeniously as he had done all the others, had himself drawn up the letter of recall, which the king had afterwards copied out in his own hand and marked “secret and confidential.” Yet Granvelle might have guessed that in such an emergency Philip would hardly depend upon his own literary abilities.
Granvelle remained month after month in seclusion, doing his best to philosophize. Already, during the latter period of his residence in the Netherlands, he had lived in a comparative and forced solitude. His house had been avoided by those power-worshippers whose faces are rarely turned to the setting sun. He had, in consequence, already, before his departure, begun to discourse on the beauties of retirement, the fatigues of greatness, and the necessity of repose for men broken with the storms of state. A great man was like a lake, he said, to which a thirsty multitude habitually resorted till the waters were troubled, sullied, and finally exhausted.
Power looked more attractive in front than in the retrospect. That which men possessed was ever of less value than that which they hoped. In this fine strain of eloquent commonplace the falling minister had already begun to moralize upon the vanity of human wishes. When he was established at his charming retreat in Burgundy, he had full leisure to pursue the theme. He remained in retirement till his beard grew to his waist, having vowed, according to report, that he would not shave till recalled to the Netherlands. If the report were true, said some of the gentlemen in the provinces, it would be likely to grow to his feet. He professed to wish himself blind and deaf, that he might have no knowledge of the world’s events, described himself as buried in literature, and fit for no business save to remain in his chamber, fastened to his books, or occupied with private affairs and religious exercises.
He possessed a most charming residence at Orchamps, where he spent a great portion of his time. In one of his letters to Vice-Chancellor Seld, he described the beauties of this retreat with much delicacy and vigor: “I am really not as badly off here,” said he, “as I should be in the Indies. I am in sweet places where I have wished for you a thousand times, for I am certain that you would think them appropriate for philosophy and worthy the habitation of the Muses. Here are beautiful mountains, high as heaven, fertile on all their sides, wreathed with vineyards, and rich with every fruit; here are rivers flowing through charming valleys, the waters clear as crystal, filled with trout, breaking into numberless cascades. Here are umbrageous groves, fertile fields, lovely meadows; on the one side great warmth, on the other side delectable coolness, despite the summer’s heat. Nor is there any lack of good company, friends, and relations, with, as you well know, the very best wines in the world.”
Thus it is obvious that the cardinal was no ascetic. His hermitage contained other appliances save those for study and devotion. His retired life was, in fact, that of a voluptuary. His brother, Chantonnay, reproached him with the sumptuousness and disorder of his establishment. He lived in “good and joyous cheer.” He professed to be thoroughly satisfied with the course things had taken, knowing that God was above all, and would take care of all. He avowed his determination to extract pleasure and profit even from the ill will of his adversaries. “Behold my philosophy,” he cried, “to live joyously as possible, laughing at the world, at passionate people, and at all their calumnies.”
It is evident that his philosophy, if it had any real existence, was sufficiently Epicurean. It was, however, mainly compounded of pretense, like his whole nature and his whole life. Notwithstanding the mountains high as heaven, the cool grottos, the trout, and the best Burgundy wines in the world, concerning which he descanted so eloquently, he soon became in reality most impatient of his compulsory seclusion. His pretense of “composing himself as much as possible to tranquillity and repose” could deceive none of the intimate associates to whom he addressed himself in that edifying vein. While he affected to be blind and deaf to politics, he had eyes and ears for nothing else. Worldly affairs were his element, and he was shipwrecked upon the charming solitude which he affected to admire. He was most anxious to return to the world again, but he had difficult cards to play. His master was even more dubious than usual about everything. Granvelle was ready to remain in Burgundy as long as Philip chose that he should remain there. He was also ready to go to “India, Peru, or into the fire,” whenever his king should require any such excursion, or to return to the Netherlands, confronting any danger which might lie in his path. It is probable that he nourished for a long time a hope that the storm would blow over in the provinces, and his resumption of power become possible.
William of Orange, although more than half convinced that no attempt would be made to replace the minister, felt it necessary to keep strict watch on his movements. “We must be on our guard,” said he, “and not be deceived. Perhaps they mean to put us asleep, in order the better to execute their design. For the present things are peaceable, and all the world is rejoiced at the departure of that good Cardinal.” The prince never committed the error of undervaluing the talents of his great adversary, and he felt the necessity of being on the alert in the present emergency. “’Tis a sly and cunning bird that we are dealing with,” said he, “one that sleeps neither day nor night if a blow is to be dealt to us.” Honest Brederode, after solacing himself with the spectacle of his enemy’s departure, soon began to suspect his return, and to express himself on the subject, as usual with ludicrous vehemence. “They say the red fellow is back again,” he wrote to Count Louis, “and that Berlaymont has gone to meet him at Namur. The Devil after the two would be a good chase.”
Nevertheless, the chances of that return became daily fainter. Margaret of Parma hated the cardinal with great cordiality. She fell out of her servitude to him into far more contemptible hands, but for a brief interval she seemed to take a delight in the recovery of her freedom. According to Viglius, the court, after Granvelle’s departure, was like a school of boys and girls when the pedagogue’s back is turned. He was very bitter against the duchess for her manifest joy at emancipation. The poor president was treated with the most marked disdain by Margaret, who also took pains to show her dislike to all the cardinalists. Secretary Armenteros forbade Bordey, who was Granvelle’s cousin and dependent, from even speaking to him in public. The regent soon became more intimate with Orange and Egmont than she had ever been with the cardinal. She was made to see—and, seeing, she became indignant—the cipher which she had really been during his administration. “One can tell what’s o’clock,” wrote Morillon to the fallen minister, “since she never writes to you nor mentions your name.” As to Armenteros, with whom Granvelle was still on friendly relations, he was restless in his endeavors to keep the once-powerful priest from rising again. Having already wormed himself into the confidence of the regent, he made a point of showing to the principal seigniors various letters, in which she had been warned by the cardinal to put no trust in them. “That devil,” said Armenteros, “thought he had got into Paradise here; but he is gone, and we shall take care that he never returns.”
It was soon thought highly probable that the king was but temporizing, and that the voluntary departure of the minister had been a deception. Of course nothing was accurately known upon the subject. Philip had taken good care of that, but meantime the bets were very high that there would be no restoration, with but few takers. Men thought if there had been any royal favor remaining for the great man, that the duchess would not be so decided in her demeanor on the subject. They saw that she was scarlet with indignation whenever the cardinal’s name was mentioned. They heard her thank Heaven that she had but one son, because if she had had a second he must have been an ecclesiastic and as vile as priests always were. They witnessed the daily contumely which she heaped upon poor Viglius, both because he was a friend of Granvelle and was preparing in his old age to take orders.
The days were gone, indeed, when Margaret was so filled with respectful affection for the prelate, that she could secretly correspond with the Holy Father at Rome, and solicit the red hat for the object of her veneration. She now wrote to Philip, stating that she was better informed as to affairs in the Netherlands than she had ever formerly been. She told her brother that all the views of Granvelle and of his followers, Viglius with the rest, had tended to produce a revolution which they hoped that Philip would find in full operation when he should come to the Netherlands. It was their object, she said, to fish in troubled waters, and, to attain that aim, they had ever pursued the plan of gaining the exclusive control of all affairs. That was the reason why they had ever opposed the convocation of the states-general. They feared that their books would be read, and their frauds, injustice, simony, and rapine discovered. This would be the result, if tranquility were restored to the country, and therefore they had done their best to foment and maintain discord. The duchess soon afterwards entertained her royal brother with very detailed accounts of various acts of simony, peculation, and embezzlement committed by Viglius, which the cardinal had aided and abetted, and by which he had profited. These revelations are inestimable in a historical point of view. They do not raise our estimate of Margaret’s character, but they certainly give us a clear insight into the nature of the Granvelle administration.
At the same time it was characteristic of the duchess, that while she was thus painting the portrait of the cardinal for the private eye of his sovereign, she should address the banished minister himself in a secret strain of condolence, and even of penitence. She wrote to assure Granvelle that she repented extremely having adopted the views of Orange. She promised that she would state publicly everywhere that the cardinal was an upright man, intact in his morals and his administration, a most zealous and faithful servant of the king. She added that she recognized the obligations she was under to him, and that she loved him like a brother. She affirmed that if the Flemish seigniors had induced her to cause the cardinal to be deprived of the government, she was already penitent, and that her fault deserved that the king, her brother, should cut off her head, for having occasioned so great a calamity.
There was certainly discrepancy between the language thus used simultaneously by the duchess to Granvelle and to Philip, but Margaret had been trained in the school of Machiavelli, and had sat at the feet of Loyola.
The cardinal replied with equal suavity, protesting that such a letter from the duchess left him nothing more to desire, as it furnished him with an “entire and perfect justification” of his conduct. He was aware of her real sentiments, no doubt, but he was too politic to quarrel with so important a personage as Philip’s sister.
An incident which occurred a few months after the minister’s departure served to show the general estimation in which he was held by all ranks of Netherlanders. Count Mansfeld celebrated the baptism of his son, Philip Octavian, by a splendid series of festivities at Luxemburg, the capital of his government. Besides the tournaments and similar sports, with which the upper classes of European society were accustomed at that day to divert themselves, there was a grand masquerade, to which the public were admitted as spectators. In this “mummery” the most successful spectacle was that presented by a group arranged in obvious ridicule of Granvelle. A figure dressed in cardinal’s costume, with the red hat upon his head, came pacing through the arena upon horseback. Before him marched a man attired like a hermit, with long white beard, telling his beads upon a rosary, which he held ostentatiously in his hands. Behind the mounted cardinal came the devil, attired in the usual guise considered appropriate to the Prince of Darkness, who scourged both horse and rider with a whip of fox-tails, causing them to scamper about the lists in great trepidation, to the immense delight of the spectators. The practical pun upon Simon Renard’s name embodied in the fox-tail, with the allusion to the effect of the manifold squibs perpetrated by that most bitter and lively enemy upon Granvelle, were understood and relished by the multitude. Nothing could be more hearty than the blows bestowed upon the minister’s representative, except the applause with which this satire, composed of actual fustigation, was received. The humorous spectacle absorbed all the interest of the masquerade and was frequently repeated. It seemed difficult to satisfy the general desire to witness a thorough chastisement of the culprit.
The incident made a great noise in the country. The cardinalists felt naturally very much enraged, but they were in a minority. No censure came from the government at Brussels. and Mansfeld was then and for a long time afterwards the main pillar of royal authority in the Netherlands. It was sufficiently obvious that Granvelle, for the time at least, was supported by no party of any influence.
Meantime he remained in his seclusion. His unpopularity did not, however, decrease in his absence. More than a year after his departure, Berlaymont said the nobles detested the cardinal more than ever, and would eat him alive if they caught him. The chance of his returning was dying gradually out. At about the same period Chantonnay advised his brother to show his teeth. He assured Granvelle that he was too quiet in his disgrace, reminded him that princes had warm affections when they wished to make use of people, but that when they could have them too cheaply, they esteemed them but little, making no account of men whom they were accustomed to see under their feet. He urged the cardinal, in repeated letters, to take heart again, to make himself formidable, and to rise from his crouching attitude. All the world say, he remarked, that the game is up between the king and yourself, and before long everyone will be laughing at you, and holding you for a dupe.
Stung or emboldened by these remonstrances, and weary of his retirement, Granvelle at last abandoned all intention of returning to the Netherlands, and towards the end of 1565, departed to Rome, where he participated in the election of Pope Pius V. Five years afterwards he was employed by Philip to negotiate the treaty between Spain, Rome, and Venice against the Turk. He was afterwards Viceroy of Naples, and in 1575, he removed to Madrid, to take an active part in the management of the public business, “the disorder of which,” says the Abbé Boisot, “could be no longer arrested by men of mediocre capacity.” He died in that city on the 21st of September, 1586, at the age of seventy, and was buried at Besançon.
We have dwelt at length on the administration of this remarkable personage, because the period was one of vital importance in the history of the Netherland commonwealth. The minister who deals with the country at an epoch when civil war is imminent, has at least as heavy a responsibility upon his head as the man who goes forth to confront the armed and full-grown rebellion. All the causes out of which the great revolt was born, were in violent operation during the epoch of Granvelle’s power. By the manner in which he comported himself in presence of those dangerous and active elements of the coming convulsions, must his character as a historical personage be measured. His individuality had so much to do with the course of the government, the powers placed in his hands were so vast, and his energy so untiring, that it is difficult to exaggerate the importance of his influence upon the destiny of the country which he was permitted to rule. It is for this reason that we have been at great pains to present his picture, sketched as it were by his own hand. A few general remarks are, however, necessary. It is the historian’s duty to fix upon one plain and definite canvas the chameleon colors in which the subtle cardinal produced his own image. Almost any theory concerning his character might be laid down and sustained by copious citations from his works; nay, the most opposite conclusions as to his interior nature may be often drawn from a single one of his private and interminable letters. Embarked under his guidance, it is often difficult to comprehend the point to which we are tending. The oarsman’s face beams upon us with serenity, but he looks in one direction, and rows in the opposite course. Even thus it was three centuries ago. Was it to be wondered at that many did not see the precipice towards which the bark which held their all was gliding under the same impulse?
No man has ever disputed Granvelle’s talents. From friend and foe his intellect has received the full measure of applause which it could ever claim. No doubt his genius was of a rare and subtle kind. His great power was essentially dramatic in its nature. He mastered the characters of the men with whom he had to deal, and then assumed them. He practiced this art mainly upon personages of exalted station, for his scheme was to govern the world by acquiring dominion over its anointed rulers. A smooth and supple slave in appearance, but, in reality, while his power lasted, the despot of his masters, he exercised boundless control by enacting their parts with such fidelity that they were themselves deceived. It is impossible not to admire the facility with which this accomplished Proteus successively assumed the characters of Philip and of Margaret, through all the complicated affairs and voluminous correspondence of his government.
When envoys of high rank were to be dispatched on confidential missions to Spain, the cardinal drew their instructions as the duchess—threw light upon their supposed motives in secret letters as the king’s sister—and answered their representations with ponderous wisdom as Philip,transmitting dispatches, letters, and briefs for royal conversations, in time to be thoroughly studied before the advent of the ambassador. Whoever traveiled from Brussels to Madrid in order to escape the influence of the ubiquitous cardinal, was sure to be confronted with him in the inmost recesses of the king’s cabinet as soon as he was admitted to an audience. To converse with Philip or Margaret was but to commune with Antony. The skill with which he played his game, seated quietly in his luxurious villa, now stretching forth one long arm to move the king at Madrid, now placing Margaret upon what square he liked, and dealing with bishops, Knights of the Fleece, and lesser dignitaries, the Richardot’s, the MorilIon’s, the Viglius’s, and the Berlaymont’s, with sole reference to his own scheme of action, was truly of a nature to excite our special wonder. His aptitude for affairs and his power to read character were extraordinary, but it was necessary that the affairs should be those of a despotism, and the characters of an inferior nature. He could read Philip and Margaret, Egmont or Berlaymont, Alva or Viglius, but he had no plummet to sound the depths of a mind like that of William the Silent. His genius was adroit and subtle, but not profound. He aimed at power by making the powerful subservient, but he had not the intellect which deals in the daylight face to face with great events and great minds. In the violent political struggle of which his administration consisted, he was foiled and thrown by the superior strength of a man whose warfare was open and manly, and who had no defense against the poisoned weapons of his foe.
His literary accomplishments were very great. His fecundity was prodigious, and he wrote at will in seven languages. This polyglot facility was not in itself a very remarkable circumstance, for it grew out of his necessary education and geographical position. Few men in that age and region were limited to their mother tongue. The Prince of Orange, who made no special pretense to learning, possessed at least five languages. Egmont, who was accounted an ignorant man, was certainly familiar with three. The cardinal, however, wrote not only with ease, but with remarkable elegance, vigor, and vivacity, in whatever Ianguage he chose to adopt. The style of his letters and other documents, regarded simply as compositions, was inferior to that of no writer of the age. His occasional orations, too, were esteemed models of smooth and flowing rhetoric, at an epoch when the art of eloquence was not much cultivated. Yet it must be allowed that beneath all the shallow but harmonious flow of his periods, it would be idle to search for a grain of golden sand. Not a single sterling, manly thought is to be found in all his productions. If at times our admiration is excited with the appearance of a gem of true philosophy, we are soon obliged to acknowledge, on closer inspection, that we have been deceived by a false glitter. In retirement, his solitude was not relieved by serious application to any branch of knowledge. Devotion to science and to the advancement of learning, a virtue which has changed the infamy of even baser natures than his into glory, never dignified his seclusion. He had elegant tastes, he built fine palaces, he collected paintings, and he discoursed of the fine arts with the skill and eloquence of a practiced connoisseur; but the nectared fruits of divine philosophy were but harsh and crabbed to him.
His moral characteristics are even more difficult to seize than his intellectual traits. It is a perplexing task to arrive at the intimate interior structure of a nature which hardly had an interior. He did not change, but he presented himself daily in different aspects. Certain peculiarities he possessed, however, which were unquestionable. He was always courageous, generally calm. Placed in the midst of a nation which hated him, exposed to the furious opposition of the most powerful adversaries, having hardly a friend, except the cowardly Viglius and the pluralist Morillon, secretly betrayed by Margaret of Parma, insulted by rude grandees, and threatened by midnight assassins, he never lost his self-possession, his smooth arrogance, his fortitude. He was constitutionally brave. He was not passionate in his resentments. To say that he was forgiving by nature would be an immense error, but that he could put aside vengeance at the dictate of policy is very certain. He could temporize, even after the reception of what he esteemed grave injuries, if the offenders were powerful.
He never manifested rancor against the duchess. Even after his fall from power in the Netherlands, he interceded with the pope in favor of the principality of Orange, which the pontiff was disposed to confiscate. The prince was at that time as good a Catholic as the cardinal. He was apparently on good terms with his sovereign, and seemed to have a prosperous career before him. He was not a personage to be quarrelled with. At a later day, when the position of that great man was most clearly defined to the world, the cardinal’s ancient affection for his former friend and pupil did not prevent him from suggesting the famous ban by which a price was set upon his head, and his life placed in the hands of every assassin in Europe. It did not prevent him from indulging in the jocularity of a fiend, when the news of the first-fruits of that bounty upon murder reached his ears. It did not prevent him from laughing merrily at the pain which his old friend must have suffered, shot through the head and face with a musket ball, and at the mutilated aspect which his “handsome face must have presented to the eyes of his apostate wife.” It did not prevent him from stoutly disbelieving and then refusing to be comforted, when the recovery of the illustrious victim was announced. He could always dissemble without entirely forgetting his grievances. Certainly, if he were the forgiving Christian he pictured himself, it is passing strange to reflect open the ultimate fate of Egmont, Horn, Montigny, Berghen, Orange, and a host of others, whose relations with him were inimical.
His extravagance was enormous, and his life luxurious. At the same time he could leave his brother Champagny—a man, with all his faults, of a noble nature, and with scarcely inferior talents to his own—to languish for a long time in abject poverty, supported by the charity of an ancient domestic. His greediness for wealth was proverbial. No benefice was too large or too paltry to escape absorption, if placed within his possible reach. Loaded with places and preferments, rolling in wealth, he approached his sovereign with the whine of a mendicant. He talked of his property as a “misery” when he asked for boons, and expressed his thanks in the language of a slave when he received them. Having obtained the abbey of St. Armand, he could hardly wait for the burial of the bishop of Tourney before claiming the vast revenues of Afflighem, assuring the king as he did so that his annual income was but 18,000 crowns. At the same time, while thus receiving or pursuing the vast rents of St. Armand and Afllighem, he could seize the abbey of Trulle from the expectant hands of poor dependents, and accept tapestries and hogsheads of wine from Jacques Lequien and others, as a tax on the benefices which he procured for them. Yet the man who, like his father before him, had so long fattened on the public money, who at an early day had incurred the Emperor’s sharp reproof for his covetousness, whose family, beside all these salaries and personal property, possessed already fragments of the royal domain, in the shape of nineteen baronies and seigniories in Burgundy, besides the county of Cantecroix and other estates in the Netherlands, had the effrontery to affirm, “We have always rather regarded the service of the master than our own particular profit.”
In estimating the conduct of the minister, in relation to the provinces, we are met upon the threshold by a swarm of vague assertions which are of a nature to blind or distract the judgment. His character must be judged as a whole, and by its general results, with a careful allowance for contradictions and equivocations. Truth is clear and single, but the lights are parti-colored and refracted in the prism of hypocrisy. The great feature of his administration was a prolonged conflict between himself and the leading seigniors of the Netherlands. The ground of the combat was the religious question. Let the quarrel be turned or tortured in any manner that human ingenuity can devise, it still remains unquestionable that Granvelle’s main object was to strengthen and to extend the inquisition, that of his adversaries to overthrow the institution. It followed, necessarily, that the ancient charters were to be trampled in the dust before that tribunal could be triumphant. The nobles, although all Catholics, defended the cause of the poor religious martyrs, the privileges of the nation, and the rights of their order. They were conservatives, battling for the existence of certain great facts, entirely consonant to any theory of justice and divine reason—for ancient constitutions which had been purchased with blood and treasure. “I will maintain,” was the motto of William of Orange. Philip, bigoted and absolute almost beyond comprehension, might perhaps have proved impervious to any representations, even of Granvelle. Nevertheless, the minister might have attempted the task, and the responsibility is heavy upon the man who shared the power and directed the career, but who never ceased to represent the generous resistance of individuals to frantic cruelty, as offenses against God and the king.
Yet extracts are drawn from his letters to prove that he considered the Spaniards as “proud and usurping,” that he indignantly denied ever having been in favor of subjecting the Netherlands to the soldiers of that nation, that he recommended the withdrawal of the foreign regiments, and that he advised the king, when he came to the country, to bring with him but few Spanish troops. It should, however, be remembered that he employed, according to his own statements, every expedient which human ingenuity could suggest to keep the foreign soldiers in the provinces, that he “lamented to his inmost soul” their forced departure, and that he did not consent to that measure until the people were in a tumult, and the Zealanders threatening to lay the country under the ocean. “You may judge of the means employed to excite the people,” he wrote to Perez in 1563, “by the fact that a report is circulated that the Duke of Alva is coming hither to tyrannize the provinces.” Yet it appears by the admission of Del Ryo, one of Alva’s blood council, that, “Cardinal Granvelle expressly advised that an army of Spaniards should be sent to the Netherlands, to maintain the obedience to his Majesty and the Catholic religion, and that the Duke of Alva was appointed chief by the advice of Cardinal Spinosa, and by that of Cardinal Granvelle, as appeared by many letters written at the time to his friends.” By the same confessions, it appeared that the course of policy thus distinctly recomrnended by Granvelle, “was to place the country under a system of government like that of Spain and Italy, and to induce it entirely under the council of Spain.” When the terrible duke started on his errand of blood and fire, the cardinal addressed him a letter of fulsome flattery, protesting “that all the world knew that no person could be found so appropriate as he, to be employed in an affair of such importance,” urging him to advance with his army as rapidly as possible upon the Netherlands, hoping that “the Duchess of Parma would not be allowed to consent that any pardon or concession should be made to the cities, by which the, construction of fortresses would be interfered with, or the revocation of the charters which had been forfeited be prevented,” and giving him much advice as to the general pleasures to be adopted, and the persons to be employed upon his arrival, in which number the infamous Noircarmes was especially recommended.
In a document found among his papers, these same points, with others, were handled at considerable length. The incorporation of the provinces into one kingdom, of which the king was to be crowned absolute sovereign; the establishment of a universal law for the Catholic religion, care being taken not to call that law inquisition, “because there was nothing so odious to the northern nations as the word Spanish Inquisition, although the thing in itself be most holy and just”; the abolition and annihilation of the broad or general council in the cities, the only popular representation in the country; the construction of many citadels and fortresses to be garrisoned with Spaniards, Italians, and Germans. Such were the leading features in that remarkable paper.
The manly and open opposition of the nobles was stigmatized as a cabal by the offended priest. He repeatedly whispered in the royal ear that their league was a treasonable conspiracy which the attorney-general ought to prosecute, that the seigniors meant to subvert entirely the authority of the Sovereign; that they meant to put their king under tutelage, to compel him to obey all their commands, to choose another prince of the blood for their chief, to establish a republic by the aid of foreign troops. If such insinuations, distilled thus secretly into the ear of Philip, who, like his predecessor, Dionysius, took pleasure in listening daily to charges against his subjects and to the groans of his prisoners, were not likely to engender a dangerous gangrene in the royal mind, it would be difficult to indicate any course which would produce such a result. Yet the cardinal maintained that he had never done the gentlemen ill service, but that “they were angry with him for wishing to sustain the authority of the master.”
In almost every letter he expressed vague generalities of excuse, or even approbation, while he chronicled each daily fact which occurred to their discredit. The facts he particularly implored the king to keep to himself, the vague laudation he as urgently requested him to repeat to those interested. Perpetually dropping small innuendos like pebbles into the depths of his master’s suspicious soul, he knew that at last the waters of bitterness would overflow, but he turned an eversmiling face upon those who were to be his victims. There was ever something in his irony like the bland request of the inquisitor to the executioner that he would deal with his prisoners gently. There was about the same result in regard to such a prayer to be expected from Philip as from the hangman. Even if his criticisms had been uniformly indulgent, the position of the nobles and leading citizens thus subjected to a constant but secret superintendence, would have been too galling to be tolerated. They did not know, so precisely as we have learned after three centuries, that all their idle words and careless gestures as well as their graver proceedings, were kept in a noting book to be pored over and conned by rote in the recesses of the royal cabinet and the royal mind; but they suspected the espionage of the cardinal, and they openly charged him with his secret malignity.
The men who refused to burn their fellow creatures for a difference in religious opinion were stigmatized as demagogues, as ruined spendthrifts who wished to escape from their liabilities in the midst of revolutionary confusion, as disguised heretics who were waiting for a good opportunity to reveal their true characters. Montigny, who, as a Montmorency, was nearly allied to the Constable and Admiral of France, and was in epistolary correspondence with those relatives, was held up as a Huguenot, of course, therefore, in Philip’s eye, the most monstrous of malefactors.
Although no man could strew pious reflections and holy texts more liberally, yet there was always an afterthought even in his most edifying letters. A corner of the mask is occasionally lifted and the deadly face of slow but abiding vengeance is revealed. “I know very well,” he wrote, soon after his fall, to Viglius, “that vengeance is the Lord’s—God is my witness that I pardon all the past.” In the same letter, nevertheless, he added, “My theology, however, does not teach me, that by enduring, one is to enable one’s enemies to commit even greater wrongs. If the royal justice is not soon put into play, I shall be obliged to right myself. This thing is going on too long—patience exhausted changes to fury. ’Tis necessary that every man should assist himself as he can, and when I choose to throw the game into confusion I shall do it perhaps more notably than the others.” A few weeks afterwards, writing to the same correspondent, he observed, “We shall have to turn again, and rejoice together. Whatever the king commands I shall do, even were I to march into the fire, whatever happens, and without fear or respect for any person. I mean to remain the same man to the end—Durate—and I have a head that is hard enough when I do undertake anything—nec animum despondeo.” Here, certainly, was significant foreshadowing of the general wrath to come, and it was therefore of less consequence that the portraits painted by him of Berghen, Horn, Montigny, and others, were so rarely relieved by the more flattering tints which he occasionally mingled with the somber coloring of his other pictures.
Especially with regard to Count Egmont, his conduct was somewhat perplexing and, at first sight, almost inscrutable. That nobleman had been most violent in opposition to his course, had drawn a dagger upon him, had frequently covered him with personal abuse, and had crowned his offensive conduct by the invention of the memorable fool’s-cap livery. Yet the cardinal usually spoke of him with pity and gentle consideration, described him as really well disposed in the main, as misled by others, as a “friend of smoke,” who might easily be gained by flattery and bribery. When there was question of the count’s going to Madrid, the cardinal renewed his compliments with additional expression of eagerness that they should be communicated to their object. Whence all this Christian meekness in the author of the ban against Orange and the eulogist of Alva? The true explanation of this endurance on the part of the cardinal lies in the estimate which he had formed of Egmont’s character. Granvelle had taken the man’s measure, and even he could not foresee the unparalleled cruelty and dullness which were eventually to characterize Philip’s conduct towards him. On the contrary, there was every reason why the cardinal should see in the count a personage whom brilliant services, illustrious rank, and powerful connections, had marked for a prosperous future. It was even currently asserted that Philip was about to create him governor-general of the Netherlands, in order to detach him entirely from Orange, and to bind him more closely to the Crown. He was, therefore, a man to be forgiven.
Nothing apparently but a suspicion of heresy could damage the prospects of the great noble, and Egmont was orthodox beyond all peradventure. He was even a bigot in the Catholic faith. He had privately told the Duchess of Parma that he had always been desirous of seeing the edicts thoroughly enforced, and he denounced as enemies all those persons who charged him with ever having been in favor of mitigating the system. “He was reported, to be sure, at about the time of Granvelle’s departure from the Netherlands, to have said “post pocula, that the quarrel was not with the cardinal, but with the king, who was administering the public affairs very badly, even in the matter of religion.” Such a bravado, however, uttered by a gentleman in his cups, when flushed with a recent political triumph, could hardly outweigh in the cautious calculations of Granvelle, distinct admissions in favor of persecution. Egmont in truth stood in fear of the inquisition. The hero of Gravelingen and St. Quentin actually trembled before Peter Titelmann. Moreover, notwithstanding all that had past, he had experienced a change in his sentiments in regard to the cardinal. He frequently expressed the opinion that, although his presence in the Netherlands was inadmissible, he should be glad to see him pope. He had expressed strong disapprobation of the buffooning masquerade by which he had been ridiculed at the Mansfeld christening party. When at Madrid he not only spoke well of Granvelle himself, but would allow nothing disparaging concerning him to be uttered in his presence. When, however, Egmont had fallen from favor, and was already a prisoner, the cardinal diligently exerted himself to place under the king’s eye what he considered the most damning evidence of the count’s imaginary treason, a document with which the public prosecutor had not been made acquainted.
Thus, it will be seen by this retrospect how difficult it is to seize all the shifting subtleties of this remarkable character. His sophisms, even when self-contradictory, are so adroit that they are often hard to parry. He made a great merit to himself for not having originated the new episcopates, but it should be remembered that he did his utmost to enforce the measure, which was “so holy a scheme that he would sacrifice for its success his fortune and his life.” He refused the archbishopric of Mechlin, but his motives for so doing were entirely sordid. His revenues were for the moment diminished, while his personal distinction was not, in his opinion, increased by the promotion. He refused to accept it because “it was no addition to his dignity, as he was already Cardinal and Bishop of Arras,” but in this statement he committed an important anachronism. He was not cardinal when he refused the see of Mechlin; having received the red hat upon February 26, 1561, and having already accepted the archbishopric in May of the preceding year.
He affirmed that “no man would more resolutely defend the liberty and privileges of the provinces than he would do,” but he preferred being tyrannized by his prince to maintaining the joyful entrance. He complained of the insolence of the states in meddling with the supplies; he denounced the convocation of the representative bodies, by whose action alone, what there was of “liberty and privilege” in the land could be guarded; he recommended the entire abolition of the common councils in the cities. He described himself as having always combated the opinion that “any thing could be accomplished by terror, death, and violence,” yet he recommended the mission of Alva, in whom “terror, death, and violence” were incarnate. He was indignant that he should be accused of having advised the introduction of the Spanish inquisition, but his reason was that the term sounded disagreeably in northern ears, while the thing was most commendable. He manifested much anxiety that the public should be disabused of their fear of the Spanish inquisition, but he was the indefatigable supporter of the Netherland inquisition, which Philip declared with reason to be “the more pitiless institution” of the two. He was the author, not of the edicts, but of their re-enactment, verbally and literally, in all the horrid extent to which they had been carried by Charles V, and had recommended the use of the Emperor’s name to sanctify the infernal scheme.
He busied himself personally in the execution of these horrible laws, even when judge and hangman slackened. To the last he denounced all those “who should counsel his Majesty to permit a moderation of the edicts,” and warned the king that if he should consent to the least mitigation of their provisions, things would go worse in the provinces than in France. He was diligent in establishing the reinforced episcopal inquisition side by side with these edicts, and with the papal inquisition already in full operation. He omitted no occasion of encouraging the industry of all these various branches in the business of persecution. When at last the loud cry from the oppressed inhabitants of Flanders was uttered in unanimous denunciation by the four estates of that province of the infamous Titelmann, the cardinal’s voice, from the depths of his luxurious solitude, was heard, not in sympathy with the poor innocent wretches, who were daily dragged from their humble homes to perish by sword and fire, but in pity for the inquisitor who was doing the work of hell. “I deeply regret,” he wrote to Viglius, “that the states of Flanders should be pouting at inquisitor Titelmann. Truly he has good zeal, although sometimes indiscreet and noisy; still he must be supported, lest they put a bridle upon him, by which his authority will be quite enervated.” The reader who is acquainted with the personality of Peter Titelmann can decide as to the real benignity of the joyous epicurean who could thus commend and encourage such a monster of cruelty.
If popularity be a test of merit in a public man, it certainly could not be claimed by the cardinal. From the moment when Gresham declared him to be “hated of all men,” down to the period of his departure, the odium resting upon him had been rapidly extending. He came to the country with two grave accusations resting upon his name. The Emperor Maximilian asserted that the cardinal had attempted to take his life by poison, and he persisted in the truth of the charge thus made by him, till the day of his death. Another accusation was more generally credited. He was the author of the memorable forgery by which the Landgrave Philip of Hesse had been entrapped into his long imprisonment. His course in and towards the Netherlands has been sufficiently examined. Not a single charge has been made lightly, but only after careful sifting of evidence. Moreover they are all sustained mainly from the criminal’s own lips. Yet when the secrecy of the Spanish cabinet and the Machiavellian scheme of policy by which the age was characterized are considered, it is not strange that there should have been misunderstandings and contradictions with regard to the man’s character till a full light had been thrown upon it by the disinterment of ancient documents. The word “Durate,” which was the cardinal’s device, may well be inscribed upon his mask, which has at last been torn aside, but which was formed of such durable materials, that it has deceived the world for three centuries.